Monday, August 9, 2010

Book review: Dear America: The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson

Dear America: The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson (Published by Scholastic, September 1, 2010)

When thirteen-year-old Piper Davis’s older brother, Hank, joins the Navy after graduation from high school in 1941, she is mostly just sad because it will mean she won’t get to see her beloved big brother for a long time. After Hank leaves home, a family friend gives Piper a diary, and she writes about school, her friends, her interest in photography, and the news of the wars in Europe and Asia, which seem far away and unlikely to affect her life. That all changes, however, on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, where her brother is stationed.

From that day on, everything changes in Piper’s life. The war and her worry for her brother’s safety are constantly on her mind. And having grown up as the daughter of the pastor at a Japanese Baptist Church, she has many Japanese friends and neighbors. It saddens Piper to see the discrimination against the Japanese-Americans, many of whom were born in the United States. When the Japanese are forced to leave their homes, Piper's father decides to follow his congregation to the internment camp, and takes Piper with him. At first Piper deeply resents her father for taking her away from her home and friends. But she soon learns that what she has lost pales in comparison to the suffering of her Japanese friends and neighbors, incarcerated far from home in a place barely fit for humans to live in.

As a long time fan of the Dear America series I was eagerly anticipating reading The Fences Between Us, the first new book in the series in several years, and I am happy to say I was not at all disappointed. Piper’s diary is both entertaining and educational, bringing to life both everyday life for a young girl during World War II, as well as the wrongful incarceration of the Japanese-Americans in internment camps. I highly recommend this book to both old and new fans of the Dear America series.

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