Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family's life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It's 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her and her grandfather's dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat and gets as far as the mainland before she is caught and forced to abandon Yujiin. She and her grandfather are devastated, but Manami clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn't until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can reclaim the piece of herself that she left behind and accept all that has happened to her family.
First-person, present-tense narration gives voice to a voiceless child amid the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Ten-year-old Manami and her family are relocated from Bainbridge Island, Wash., to a California internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; in a wrenching early scene, a soldier forcibly separates Manami from Yujiin, her beloved dog, after which she becomes mute, expressing her longing only in drawings. Manami's narration occasionally takes the form of short, poetic bursts: "So it is settled. Father will work. Mother will cook. Grandfather will sit. What will I do? Water plants. Sit with Grandfather. Wait for Yujiin." Sepahban, the author of several works of children's nonfiction, eloquently conveys the devastating effects of internment and a resilience undergirded by cultural traditions. In one quietly powerful scene, Manami acknowledges her depressed grandfather's return to family meals: "A ceremony to honor a special occasion. Mother is preparing tea." In depicting how Manami's college-age brother, Ron, must choose between internment or joining the army, Sepahban captures the contradictions of this bleak period. Engrossing and heartrending historical fiction. Ages 9 12.