Thursday, September 4, 2014

Book Review - Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky


Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky

By: Sandra Dallas
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1585369065
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: September 5, 2014

Tomi Itano was an American, or so she thought. “Go on, kids. Scram. Can’t you read the sign?” Mr. Akron had always been nice to them until now. Tomi and her brother Hiro were just going to get some candy, but something was terribly wrong and they weren’t going to be getting any. Osamu, Sam, her father, and her mother Sumiko had come from Japan and were Issei, first generation Americans. It didn’t make a lot of sense that they were all of a sudden not American. One thing the Itanos knew how to do was raise the stars and stripes before they began working on their strawberry farm in the morning.

The strange men started asking Tomi about Pop. “Does your father use the radio late at night?” Didn’t everyone? Her father wasn’t welcome in America any more either. The FBI was sending Pop to New Mexico. Mom, Tomi, and her brothers Hiro and Roy would be staying behind in California, or so they thought. “Shikata ga nai,” Mom exclaimed. It couldn’t be helped and neither could the Itano family. Heck, twelve-year-old Tomi couldn’t even speak Japanese, but when Mrs. Malkin told her she was out of the Girl Scouts she understood that.

The furniture was sold for pennies on the dollar, but no way was Mom going to sell her washing machine for twenty-five cents. Breaking it was better than selling it for two bits and so she did just that. Executive Order 9066 was a piece of paper that turned Tomi Itano into an evacuee. First stop was Santa Anita where there was a ”high barbed-wire fence” and men with guns. The Itanos crowded into a horse stall in “horse-stall hotel.” Mom would make it into a home, but soon they would be heading to Tallgrass, Colorado. “Go on back to where you came from?” Yeah, but where did Tomi belong if it wasn’t in America?

This is a poignant story of Tomi Itano, a young American, who had no home. An ugly chapter in American history is once again brought to life for young readers with “Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky. For many it will be difficult to believe that there would be anything like a “No Japs Allowed” sign in a store, let alone relocation camps. Tomi is a very likeable character, a young girl that many will be able to relate to. We meet many other children in the camps and learn about the stoic bravery of many of the people interned there. This is a marvelous tale that’s not just for young readers, but everyone.

Quill says: This is a period in American history few will forget, a period that young people need to be made aware of.