A Place Where Sunflowers Grow

Amy Lee-Tai, Author, Felicia Hoshino, Illustrator , illus. by Felicia Hoshino. Children's Book Press $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-89239-215-5

Lee-Tai's debut book traces one girl's gradual adaptation to painful circumstances in an internment camp for American citizens of Japanese ancestry during WWII. Mari, the young daughter of a pair of artists, has moved (just over a year ago) from her beloved California home to Topaz, a camp in the Utah desert. As the book opens, she and her mother plant sunflower seeds. Her parents sign her up for classes in the art school they've started, but Mari is too depressed to draw. Her parents are unfailingly kind and understanding. "That happens to me sometimes, too," her father says when Mari tells him about her artist's block. "But I don't give up," he adds. Sure enough, Mari discovers she can keep memory alive by drawing it—and she can grow sunflowers in Utah's sandy soil, too. Hoshino's ink-and-watercolor spreads both provide historical information and convey the story's emotional weight—and do both with grace. In one evocative painting, Mari and her mother wait in line for the latrine while, ahead of them, a pregnant woman puts her hands on her round stomach with a thoughtful expression; "What is to become of my child?" readers can imagine her thinking. One caveat: the inclusion of a Japanese translation on each page widens the book's audience to include Japanese students of English, but also crowds the pages visually. Readers will enjoy watching Mari grow in strength and confidence. Ages 6-up. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/19/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Paperback - 32 pages - 978-0-89239-274-2
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