During World War II, Manami and her parents and grandfather are forced to relocate from Bainbridge Island in Washington to Manzanar, an internment camp in California for Japanese-Americans.
As they’re about to leave behind everything they own, Manami snatches Yujiin, their beloved dog, into her coat before anyone sees. Sadly, a soldier catches Manami, and Yujiin is left behind in a crate. Heartbroken, guilt-ridden over Yujiin, and fearful of their Manzanar “prison-village,” Manami loses her voice. The relentless, swirling red dirt that coats her throat with mud worsens her silence. Her parents try to make a home in their one-room barrack, while their son, Ron, leaves college to join them. A breath of fresh air is felt when Manami meets her teacher, Miss Rosalie, who doesn’t make her speak but offers Manami plenty of paper and pencils. When Manami sends hand-drawn messages via the wind to Yujiin, she hopes that the little dog will get them and find his way back home. Hardships, injustice, and the emotional truth of Manami’s camp life are thoughtfully portrayed through simple and heart-rending prose. Despite the barbed wire fence and harsh climate, Mother’s garden, mounds bearing garlic and onion seeds, becomes a symbol for resiliency. Graceful moments between Manami and Grandfather shine, giving hope to an unbearable situation.
This historical debut speaks volumes of love and longing. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)