Abigail is smart. She is. But she is my baby. She loves animal stories and sweet little chapter books. Like these.
But this fall when she came home from school one day she told me she wanted to read all of the Nutmeg books this year. Books are nominated and then children grades 2-12 are encouraged to read quality literature and choose their favorite from a list of 10 nominated titles.
But these books are in a whole different universe from the kid of books Abigail has been reading.
She loves loves loves to read! And is a wonderful reader. It wasn't the reading level that made me think twice, but the content. Could she handle a book like this?
Tomi Itano,12, is a second-generation Japanese American who lives in California with her family on their strawberry farm. Although her parents came from Japan and her grandparents still live there, Tomi considers herself an American. She doesn’t speak Japanese and has never been to Japan.
But everything changes after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1941. “No Japs allowed” signs hang in store windows and Tomi’s family is ostracized. Things get worse. Suspected as a spy, Tomi’s father is taken away. The rest of the Itano family is sent to an internment camp in Colorado. Many other Japanese American families face a similar fate.
Tomi becomes bitter, wondering how her country could treat her and her family like the enemy. What does she need to do to prove she is an honorable American? Sandra Dallas shines a light on a dark period of American history in this story of a young Japanese American girl caught up in the prejudices and suspicions of World War II.
I was curious about this book. Historical fiction has ALWAYS been my favorite genre since I was eight years old and my Dad bought me Little House in the Big Woods. (lots of times on this blog I've shared my love for the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder... life impacting for me, for sure) So I really wanted to read this one too.
Abigail brought it to and from school each day. She devoured it. And wrote notes to me each day.
And I wrote back to her.
It was a powerful, beautiful book of courage and strength through unimaginable trials. It was the story told from the little girls point of view. And it grabbed me from the very first page. From the lessons on what it means to be American to how to be a mother with grace, I loved every page.
It seemed especially meaningful to me considering the fact that my family doesn't "look" just like it's "supposed to". Although I think that families with mixed races are the most beautiful.
Abigail and I had wonderful discussion about the Japanese Interment camps and even how Anna is "just as American as you are" kind of talks. I told her the story of Anna in my arms as Scott and I stepped off the plane in America, the very moment she became an American citizen. I told how in China we held her at the American consulate under the American flag as she was sworn in under oath and in our arms.
And we talked about the beautiful country of China as Anna's birth country. And my (and daddy's) deep love for that country. I can't hear the word China and not feel a happy pang in my heart. We talked about who the parents in this book were loyal Americans but how they honored Japan.
I love how books to that. I love how they bring up things that mean so much and NEED to be talked about.
When we got toward the end of the book I wanted to read the last two chapters aloud to Abigail. (we'd been reading the same amount each day) But we both wanted to end the book together. And it was beautiful.
I cried. I cry at so many children's chapter books. They are my love.
And that look on her face?
That's the look that only a nutmeg, historical fiction, letting it go deep in your heart and soul can do.
Thank you Sandra Dallas for the words you put down on paper. They taught, they corrected, they intrigued, they warmed. And they got two thumbs up.
Thank you Mrs. Mulready for YOUR love of books and reading and for pulling us out of the comfortable sweet animal chapter books. We'll still read them of course but thank you for knowing we were (both) ready for this.