After her father, a Japanese immigrant, is arrested on trumped-up charges of espionage at the outset of World War II, 12-year-old Tomi and the rest of her family, like many Japanese-Americans, are incarcerated in an internment camp for the remainder of the war.
The family is given just two weeks to prepare for their imprisonment. They sell most of their possessions, and after several months in temporary quarters in a stall at a California racetrack, they are transferred to an unfinished camp, Tallgrass, in Colorado. Dallas, who portrayed the same fictional internment camp in her related adult novel, Tallgrass (2007), now explores camp life from an internee’s point of view. An optimistic girl, Tomi navigates the myriad difficulties of camp life and unfair imprisonment with a generally positive attitude until her embittered father is allowed to rejoin the family early in 1944. His seething anger unseats her efforts to make the best of things and cope with the prejudice of local residents. Eventually, a kind teacher inspires Tomi to enter a statewide essay contest that she wins, predictably relieving her father’s bitterness. Nearly unvarying subject/predicate sentence structure, uninspired dialogue and periodic infodumps—most of which feels as if written for a very young audience—serve to diminish the attractiveness of the presentation.
An only average depiction of a compelling and important topic. (Historical fiction. 9-12)