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THE CHILDREN OF TOPAZ by Michael O. Tunnell


The Story of a Japanese-American Internment Camp Based on a Classroom Diary

by Michael O. Tunnell & George W. Chilcoat

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8234-1239-3
Publisher: Holiday House

 In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, it took more than dust storms, loss of pets, disruption of family life, and other confusion to quell the indomitable spirits of the Japanese-American third-grade students in Lillian ``Anne'' Yamauchi Hori's class when their families were interned at the camp in Topaz, Utah. Approximately one-third of a diary the class kept serves as a basis for Tunnell (Beauty and the Beastly Children, 1993, etc.) and Chilcoat's carefully constructed look at daily life in the camp. The children's innocent comments give way to surprising stories: ``We should not kill spiders because Uncle Sam needs them for the war'' shows the children's patriotism and their knowledge of the use of webbing in bombsights; the calm, deliberately cloaked observation that an elderly man ``passed away'' doesn't include that he was shot, probably in cold blood, by a guard. In their efforts to explain the racial hysteria rampant at the time, the authors occasionally gloss over details that young readers need: e.g., at the relocation of successful Japanese-American farmers, competing farmers are typified simply as ``jealous'' and ``selfish.'' For the most part, Tunnell and Chilcoat provide a valuable, incisive, comprehensive text. (b&w photos, index, unseen, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 9-12)