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Koji is living with his white mother in San Francisco when Japanese planes attack Pearl Harbour, and almost immediately, they are accused of being spies. Life as a half Japanese teenager in San Francisco was hard enough, but once Koji and his mother are sent to Alameda Downs, an internment camp, he finds he is still an outsider and subject to more racial slurs, this time from other Japanese boys. Railing against the white soldiers who fawn over his mother, and the ragtag bullies who beat him up and rope him in to doing their dirty work, Koji doesn't know where to turn. The sparse text lends little in the way of depth, but Faulkner's painterly cross-hatched watercolour artwork fills in the gaps with sweeping maps, detailed backgrounds depicting the conditions at Alameda, and exaggerated, caricature-like expressions on his characters, many of whom loom large during intense moments and spill over the boundaries of their panels. An author's note about the inspiration for the story—Faulkner's Irish great-aunt spent time at Manzanar—and some further reading suggestions conclude. Grades 6-10. --Sarah Hunter
A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, Matt Faulkner is an acclaimed illustrator who has written and illustrated a number of children's books, including The Moon Clock, Black Belt, and A Taste of Colored Water. Matt lives with his wife, Kris Remenar, an author and children's librarian, and their children, in southeast Michigan. Visit him at www.mattfaulkner.com.
After the United States enters World War II, a half-Japanese teen and his white mother find themselves interned at the Alameda Downs Assembly Center. Everything changes for 13-year-old Koji Miyamoto after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His schoolmates accuse him of being a "Jap spy," and streetcars refuse to stop for him on the street. It doesn't help that his father has returned to Japan; Koji worries that his father may be fighting for the Japanese in the war. When Koji receives a summons to a "relocation" camp, his mother, Adeline, chooses to accompany him. The living conditions at Alameda Downs are deplorable, but Koji struggles even more with his outsider status. The other camp teenagers call him gaijin, involve him in brawls and spread gossip about his mother. Inspired by the true story of Faulkner's great-aunt, the graphic novel features gouache illustrations that deftly capture Koji's anger and frustration when he's rejected by his peers and treated as an "enemy alien" despite his citizenship. The simple text provides enough historical context to help young readers who may be unfamiliar with the history of Japanese-American internment to understand Koji's story. An accessible account about a dark-and still too-little-known-moment in American history. (author's note, resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12) Kirkus" In this graphic work of historical fiction, Koji Miyamoto turns thirteen the day the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and the San Francisco teen finds his life spinning out of control. His Japanese-born father is overseas visiting family at the time, leaving Koji and his European-American mom to navigate the social backlash within their community and the directives regarding relocation of citizens of Japanese ancestry. Koji is mandated to relocate, and his mother isn't letting him go alone, so the two are assigned to the Alameda Downs Assembly Center, a converted racetrack. There he's plagued at night by continuing dreams in which his father is a fighter pilot for Japan, bullied by day for his outsider status as a gaijin (foreigner), and he's suspicious that his mother might be exchanging sex for favors from the camp administrators and guards. Thus, in a few short weeks, a Lone Ranger loving adolescent turns into a confused and angry young man. Frames are laid out with all the orderly crispness of a cleanly deployed executive order but are densely filled with figures that roil with emotion and colors that change to lurid red-streaked hues when Koji's nightmares and fears hold sway. The particular trials of a biracial internee add a fresh dimension to the canon of relocation-camp fiction, and an endnote offers background on the Faulkner family history that inspired this title. EB BCCB" 5Q 2P M J S The bombing of Pearl Harbor did more than turn the tide of World War II; it created widespread fear across the United States towards anyone with Japanese ancestry, leading over 100,000 Americans, many of whom were children, to be placed in internment camps. With a Japanese father and an Irish-American mother, thirteen-year-old Koji Miyamoto becomes the target of bullying and prejudice until he and his mother are relocated. The bullying, however, continues, and instead of being called "Jap," the other boys call him "gaijin," or foreigner. Gaijin: American Prisoner of War follows Koji before, during, and after the camp, when (many years later) he reunites with his father in Japan. Faulkner effectively portrays a boy caught between two worlds, paying for an act of violence he did not commit. The dialogue and pacing are done well, but it is the art-gorgeous, stylized, and expressive-that really tells the story. Muted blues and yellows are periodically interrupted by fiery reds and bold greens during Koji's dreams about his father. Gaijin: American Prisoner of War is based on the experiences of Faulkner's great-aunt, and her story is explained at the end of the book along with selected resources for further study about Japanese internment. Faulkner has effectively filled a gap by creating an interesting, appealing, and accessible graphic novel on Japanese internment. This is an important book that should be in every collection.-Marissa Wolf. VOYA" Faulkner (A Taste of Colored Water) draws on his own ancestry as inspiration for the story of 13-year-old Koji Miyamoto, a half-Japanese boy who is sent to an internment camp during WWII. Like many people of mixed race, Koji doesn't seem to fit in anywhere-harassed and called "slanty eyes" and a "Jap spy" by Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and a "gaijin" (a pejorative for foreigner) by the Japanese at the camp. Even with a loving mother and avuncular neighbor, Koji dreams of his father, who is abroad in Japan and whose absence places Koji under suspicion by the FBI. Aimless and filled with self-doubt, Koji begins to act out by committing petty theft and disrespecting authority, including his mother. Compassion becomes the key to Koji's salvation, and Faulkner's narrative elicits real pathos. Yet the book's true strength lies in its rich palette and painted visuals that, appropriately enough, evoke a mix between Japanese woodblock prints and Norman Rockwell paintings. Ages 8 12. PW" This historical fiction graphic novel is based on the author's great-aunt's experience in an internment camp following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Koji's Japanese father is accused of being a spy, which ultimately puts Koji and his American mother under suspicion. Koji and his mother are taken to an internment camp. Since Koji is a gaijin, a group of Japanese boys bully him; Koji is also facing conflict with his mother whose good looks, Koji fears, are getting them privileges. The book is a lesson on prejudice and the misunderstandings that can evolve from these misconceptions. Koji's dreamlike sequences of his father are touching, showing the reader the bond between the two. The reader can learn more about the author's great-aunt in "Finding Adeline" which is accompanied by a photo of Adeline and her family. A bibliography includes books, periodicals, documentary films, and websites with further information about internment camps and the plight of the Japanese. Jo Drudge, Educational Reviewer, Rome City, Indiana [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] Recommended Library Media Connection" Koji is living with his white mother in San Francisco when Japanese planes attack Pearl Harbor, and almost immediately, they are accused of being spies. Life as a half Japanese teenager in San Francisco was hard enough, but once Koji and his mother are sent to Alameda Downs, an internment camp, he finds he is still an outsider and subject to more racial slurs, this time from other Japanese boys. Railing against the white soldiers who fawn over his mother, and the ragtag bullies who beat him up and rope him in to doing their dirty work, Koji doesn't know where to turn. The sparse text lends little in the way of depth, but Faulkner's painterly cross-hatched watercolor artwork fills in the gaps with sweeping maps, detailed backgrounds depicting the conditions at Alameda, and exaggerated, caricaturelike expressions on his characters, many of whom loom large during intense moments and spill over the boundaries of their panels. An author's note about the inspiration for the story-Faulkner's Irish great-aunt spent time at Manzanar-and some further reading suggestions conclude. - Sarah Hunter Booklist" Gr 5-8 In 1941, biracial Koji and his mother hear about the attacks on Pearl Harbor from their home in San Francisco. As tensions escalate, Mrs. Miyamoto volunteers to accompany her son to the Japanese relocation camp, where Koji has to navigate the hostile environment and the social pressures of the other teenage boys. Throughout all this, his father is absent, and Koji worries if he is the traitor the U.S. government suspects him to be. The artwork is lovely, with gestural lines and colors that are warm and redolent of age and memory, and which bridge caricature and realism. However, the dialogue and word balloons lack a similar finesse, as they are garishly large and convey little subtlety of emotion. They make the protagonist seem loud and immature, and generally pitch the book younger than his age. This is problematic, as he is old enough to worry about his mother, and harbors suspicions that she is having affairs for favorable treatment in the camp-issues somewhat beyond the scope of a children's book. Emotions at the times ran high, and the issues depicted are complex; this book doesn't quite capture that complexity. Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH SLJ" Koji Miyamoto is living in San Francisco with his white mother; his father has had to return to Japan temporarily to deal with a family illness. On Koji's thirteenth birthday, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, and his life changes. Despite being only half-Japanese, Koji is accused of being a "Jap spy" by classmates and harassed by streetcar operators and police; then forced to relocate to the Alameda Downs Assembly Center across the bay, where his mother voluntarily accompanies him. Amidst all these injustices, Koji wrestles not only with his father's absence from the family but also with a gang of boys in the camp who constantly bully him-for being a gaijin, or "foreigner." Through astute choices of medium (pen and watercolor), color (earth tones with red and blue accents), and composition (shifting perspectives and panel layouts), Faulkner creates a vivid and compelling internment-camp drama for young readers (who may also enjoy Kevin Pyle's fairly recent Take What You Can Carry, rev. 7/12). Back matter, which includes an author's note and bibliography, reveals that this story was inspired by Faulkner's family history. jonathan hunt Horn Book"