In 1942 Vancouver, British Columbia, a friendship starts to fall apart just as hatred and suspicion are increasing against Japanese-Canadians.
Esther is Jewish, and Michiko is Japanese, but being born on the same day in the same place fated them to be best friends. The two almost-9-year-olds love to pretend to be royalty from England. Spotting Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret dolls in a toy-store window, they dream of getting them for their birthday. But when Esther is gifted one doll, she gets swept away, forgetting about Michi, who does not receive a doll. An attempt to reconcile goes wrong, and the two stop speaking. While the girls have their quarrel, Canada and the U.S. have declared war on Japan. Hostility rises against Japanese-Canadians, and soon the Japanese men are sent away. As tensions rise in their town and their friendship, Esther must find a way to restore her relationship with Michiko. Schwartz uses a third-person point of view to follow Esther, and her realizations demonstrate a childlike, innocent understanding of increasing racism and the horrors of war. Ando’s vivid black-and-white illustrations add power and appeal. It’s a lovely, old-fashioned–feeling story, focused squarely on the girls’ friendship, that acknowledges danger and injustice—but at a distance.
A quaint historical about one of the effects of War World II for those who don’t want an intense war story. (Historical fiction. 8-11)