FLOWERS FROM MARIKO

Rick Noguchi, Author, Deneen Jenks, Joint Author, Michelle Reiko Kumata, Illustrator , illus. by Michelle Reiko Kumata. Lee & Low $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58430-032-8

Husband-and-wife writing team Noguchi and Jenks plus artist Kumata all make their children's book debuts with this affecting tale with an eerily timely theme. "Just because I look like the enemy doesn't mean I am," insists Mariko, a Japanese-American girl whose family was forced to live in an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Now, three years later, as she packs up to leave the camp's barbed-wire boundaries, she watches her father tend to his tiny flower garden in the camp, and remembers accompanying him on his rounds as a gardener before their relocation. Free to go at last, Mariko's father travels to their former home to retrieve his gardening truck, yet returns without it, explaining that their landlord sold the vehicle and moved away. They must take lodging in a trailer park built "for families who didn't have anywhere else to go." The authors create strong imagery with apt metaphors (Mariko hears her worried parents whispering at night, "their words circling the dark rooms like birds without a safe place to land"). Near their trailer, Mariko plants a flower garden, which lifts the spirits of those around her. Kumata's suitably spare, mixed media pictures feature an intriguing array of fabrics and textures, yet the characters frequently appear wooden against backdrops that are uniformly bleak. Finally, Mariko's father announces that he has gathered and repaired enough gardening tools to re-launch his business—concluding the story on a hopeful note. Ages 6-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
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