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Summary: Before World War II, the Japanese invaded and occupied Korea. Their treatment of the Korean people was atrocious and inhumane. In August 1945, after the atom bombs were dropped, Japan surrendered and withdrew its army from Korea, stranding thousands of Japanese civilians. Eleven-year-old Yoko Kawashima tells us her story. Until now, her parents have protected and pampered her and hertwo older siblings. Now, their world has been turned upside down by the need to evacuate and immediately return to Japan. They miraculously escape from Korea, only to find their homeland totally devastated and their family, friends, and neighbors suspicious and wary of them. This is a true account of the author's life in Japanese-occupied Korea at the end of World War II
Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, middle grade reader, read aloud book, remedial reader
Recommended Age: read together: 10 to 12; read yourself: 11 and up
Interest Level: 10 and up
Reading Level: 5.8
Age of Child: Reviewed by students at North Junior High School, St. Cloud, MN, as part of the Use Your ABCs program.
Young Reader Reaction: I liked this book because it tells of a girl fighting with life and death. I picked it because I had read it before and liked it. I thought it was going to be a vacation, not life or death. I like how it ends.
Adult Reader Reaction: This is a terrific read. Even though the book is technically “historical fiction,” the author and her family actually lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea, the escape of Japanese civilians from Korea, and the devastation of the bombing of Japan. Yoko shares all of her selfish confusion, fears, and frustrations with the reader. The challenges were daunting but the results were most rewarding.
Pros: This is a personal story with universal themes about the importance of treating others with dignity, respect, and kindness.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a terrific story. It highlights some of the most horrible attributes of war and man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. At the same time, it demonstrates the impact that simple works of human kindness have in helping people successfully cope with challenge. Student reviewer: Borrow. It is not very challenging.
Educational Themes: The story, though fiction, is filled with factual details about occupied Korea and World War II. There is plenty to explore not only as a study of history, but also in understanding human emotion, dealing with challenges, and how war affects children.
Notes: Flesch Kincaid reading level 5.8 AWARDS: ALA Notable Book, Parents' Choice Gold Award
Literary Categories: Fiction - biography, history, World War II
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2008, November 2009
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