On the brink of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Joe Hanada and his family search for the perfect Christmas tree, invited to do so by a good neighbor. Joe and his family are Americans of Japanese origin, as are many in the farming community near Seattle, Washington. Soon, too soon, the friendly atmosphere of the place turns to active hatred by some. On December 7th, the FBI takes Joe’s father away in his pajamas and the family begins to struggle to carry on. And then it’s their turn. The walls of the title tell much about the harsh conditions in the guarded and fenced facilities where the “detainees” must live—each family in a single room. Some of the non-Japanese are good people, some hateful, and Joe’s descriptions of them are powerful. Eventually, his father is returned to the family and his older brother joins the American army and is shipped into combat. Joe’s first-person narrative is moving and clear in its depiction of this life, so cruel and unfair, though Joe’s voice sometimes seems more mature than an 11-year-old. An important and forceful a contribution to the field. (Historical fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2004

ISBN: 0-618-34290-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004