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So Far from the Sea


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About the Author

Eve Bunting has written over two hundred books for children, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Smoky Night, illustrated by David Diaz, The Wall, Fly Away Home, and Train to Somewhere. She lives in Southern California. Chris K. Soentpiet is an award-winning illustrator whose work reflects his interest in people, history, and culture. He was given the gold medal from the Society of Illustrators in New York City for his illustrations in Haemi Balgassi's Peacebound Trains, and his books have been recognized by the American Booksellers Association, School Library Journal, the International Reading Association, the Junior Library Guild, Parents' Choice, Parents' magazine, and Smithsonian magazine. Soentpiet has a B.F.A. from Pratt Institute.


Gr 2-5ÄAll the more moving in its restraint, this picture-book account of a fictional family reveals, with gentle dignity, a sad chapter in American history. Laura Iwasaki and her Japanese-American family will soon move from California to Boston, so they are making one last visit to Laura's grandfather's grave, which lies near the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so far from the sea he loved. Before World War II, he was a fisherman. Then, along with Laura's father, her grandmother, and 10,000 other Japanese Americans, he was sent to the Manzanar War Relocation Center. There he died, and his grave is marked with only a ring of stones. The family leaves silk flowers, but Laura leaves her own special memento. Soentpiet's impressionistic watercolors perfectly complement Bunting's evocative text. Both create a palpable sense of Manzanar as it is today: a windy, isolated place, its buildings gone, dominated by snow-covered mountains. Black-and-white paintings that suggest `40s photographs illustrate Laura's father's memories of the camp. This book is much more personal than Sheila Hamanaka's nonfiction text for her mural, The Journey (Orchard, 1990), and more accessible. At the story's end, Laura whispers, "It was wrong." Her father answers, "Sometimes in the end there is no right or wrong....It is just a thing that happened long years ago. A thing that cannot be changed." Yet art and text invite a new generation of Americans to remember that things can go terribly wrong when fear and hysteria prevail.ÄMargaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

Bunting's (Smoky Night) eloquent yet spare narrative introduces nine-year-old Laura, who recounts her family's 1972 visit to the site of the former Manzanar War Relocation Camp in eastern California. Thirty years earlier, her father and his parents were interned there, along with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Soon to move to Boston, Laura, her younger brother and parents pay a final visit to the grave of the children's grandfather, a tuna fisherman robbed of his boat, home and dignity when the U.S. government sent his family to this remote camp, far from the sea he loved. Thoughtful and sympathetic, Laura has brought a chillingly ironic offering for the ancestor she never knew. It is the neckerchief from her father's Cub Scout uniform, which her grandfather had insisted his son wear on the day soldiers arrived at their home to transport them to the camp: "That way they will know you are a true American and they will not take you." Soentpiet's (More Than Anything Else) portrait of the uniformed boy respectfully saluting the soldiers as his mournful parents embrace is only one of numerous wrenching images that will haunt readers long after the last page is turned. Rendered with striking clarity, the artist's watercolors recreate two vastly different settings, evoking the tense 1940s scenarios in black and white and the serene yet wistful 1970s setting in bright color. An exceptionally effective collaboration. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)

"Bunting's spare prose effectively matches the developmental level of the ages for which this book is geared, and will generate questions that both educators and parents will find difficult to answer. Stark watercolors of the present alternate with black-and-white drawings representing scenes from the past. Together, text and illustrations create and sustain a mood of reflection and reminiscence suited to the topic." Kirkus Reviews

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