All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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The Japanese, Japanese-American, and American Perspectives

Titles in this list feature a range of homefront perspectives on World War II. Learn about the internment of Japanese-American citizens, the impact of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on residents, and how families worried about relatives in Europe and coped with the absence of so many men, who were off fighting the war. These books help students develop background knowledge on the era and are an excellent complement to history units on World War II. This list is excerpted from Dr. Joan Kaywell's latest volume in her series Adolescent Literacy as a Complement to the Classics.

Journey Home

Journey Home

Age Level: 9-12

Readers first met young Yuki and her Japanese American family in Journey to Topaz, a story based on the author's experience of having her own family uprooted and sent to the Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah. This novel continues their story after they are released into a society full of prejudice and fear.

The Quilt

The Quilt

Age Level: 9-12

A 6-year-old boy whose mother is working in a munitions factory in Chicago during World War II is sent to live in Minnesota with his grandmother, Alida. Since all of the men are in Europe fighting, the women have to work the farm, and there are plenty of animals to look after to keep the young boy busy. But he is out of his element when his cousin, Kristina, goes into labor. While waiting for the delivery, the women work on a quilt that reveals the family stories of love and loss.

Dear Miss Breed

Dear Miss Breed

Age Level: 14-16

This nonfiction book is a collection of letters written to a librarian in San Diego by the name of Miss Breed. These actual letters, replete with spelling and grammar mistakes, show how one person can make a positive difference in the lives of so many.

Weedflower

Weedflower

Age Level: 12-14

Sumiko and her family are shipped to a Japanese internment camp in one of the hottest places in California after the events of Pearl Harbor. She was raised in California on a flower farm and now instead of flowers, she must endure dust storms regularly. In her old life she was accustomed to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Now they find themselves on an Indian reservation and are as unwelcome there as anywhere. She finally finds a friend in one Mohave boy. There they do their best to rebuild their lives and create a community.

Farewell to Manzanar

Farewell to Manzanar

Age Level: 12-14

This is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention as seen through the eyes of Jeannie, the youngest daughter of the Wakatsuki family. The family was detained for four years at the Manzanar Internment Camp during World War II.

Beyond Paradise

Beyond Paradise

Age Level: 14-16

Fourteen-year-old Louise Keller and her family leave Ohio for the Philippines in order to join a missionary camp in 1941. Soon after their arrival, the Japanese have invaded and established internment camps that Louise avoids for a time in the jungle but is later captured. This story is a bit different in that it is an American version of being held in a Japanese Internment camp established by the Japanese in the Philippines.

Hiroshima

Hiroshima

Age Level: 12-14

Pulitzer Prize winner John Hersey interviewed survivors of Hiroshima's bomb while the ashes were still warm. Hersey describes the lives of six people — a clerk, a widowed seamstress, a physician, a Methodist minister, a surgeon, and a German Catholic priest — shortly before and for about a year after the bombing. While describing the ordeals of these individuals, Hersey manages to convey the devastation and the suffering experienced by the people of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. A final chapter was added in 1985 that continues with the lives of these six people.

Shadows on the Sea

Shadows on the Sea

Age Level: 9-12

Based on historical fact, this is a story that brings World War II home, just off the coast of Maine where Jill Winters has been sent to live with her grandmother. With her mother traveling the Atlantic to visit a sick brother and German submarines stalking in the nearby waters, Jill is feeling very nervous about the war, especially after finding a carrier pigeon transporting a note written in German. After she hears her grandmother and a German friend repeat the message on the note, she becomes suspicious. Determined to find the Nazi spy and solve the mystery, Jill finds herself in her own deep waters.

Looking Like the Enemy:  My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps

Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps

Age Level: 16-18

This is Mary Matsuda's memoir beginning when she was 16 years old. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, this teenager's typical life on a farm in Vashon Island, Washington, is completely changed when she and her family are relocated to an internment camp because of her Japanese ancestry.

Lily's Crossing

Lily's Crossing

Age Level: 9-12

Lily is looking forward to spending another summer at her family's vacation home with her grandmother on the shore in Rockaway, New York, when her father drops the news that he must go to Europe with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. Angry at her widower father for leaving, Lily refuses to say goodbye to him and is certain that this summer will be lonely. Then she meets Albert, a Hungarian refugee who lost most of his family to the war and had to leave his sickly sister behind in Europe. The two friends rely on each other to overcome their feelings of guilt in this story of how war affects the children at home.

Fighting for Honor

Fighting for Honor

Age Level: 9-12

This book examines the treatment of Japanese Americans before, during, and after World War II by the U.S. government. From Pearl Harbor to the Japanese Internment camps, and the victories attained by an all Asian battalion, these stories give readers insight into the dichotomy felt by Japanese Americans during this shameful time in history. Photographs capture much what cannot be adequately expressed in words.

House of the Red Fish

House of the Red Fish

Age Level: 12-14

Life for 14-year old Tomi Nakaji and other Japanese-Americans living on the Hawaiian island of Oahu has changed radically since the bombing of Pearl Harbor the previous year. He confronts violence, despair but ultimately finds hope in this gripping sequel to Under the Blood-Red Sun (1994).

Aleutian Sparrow

Aleutian Sparrow

Illustrated by: Evon Zerbetz

Age Level: 12-14

The Aleuts were dramatically affected by both Japanese and the American forces during World War II. How they were relocated from their small island in the Pacific and relocated to the coast of Alaska is hauntingly told by Vera, a young Aleutian/Caucasian girl.