Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Under the Blood-Red Sun

Under the Blood-Red Sun

Graham Salisbury
Fiction  Series
For ages 10 and up
Random House, 1995   ISBN: 978-0440411390

Tomikazu Nakaji is determined to be an American. This is not easy for though he was born in Hawaii, his parents and grandfather were not; they were born in Japan and they still cling to Japanese ways. In fact Tomi’s grandfather still insists that he is “Japanese” and he and Tomi’s parents still talk about the need to honor the family. Tomi must never do anything which would bring “shame” to the family.

It is 1941 and though Tomi knows that war is raging in far away countries he does not think about it much. Instead he spends time with his best friend Billy and he plays baseball with his baseball team, a mixed group of boys who call themselves the Rats.

Then, on December 7th, 1941, Tomi’s life is turned upside down. After the terrifying bombings of Pearl Harbor are over Tomi’s fisherman father is taken into custody. Tomi knows that his family has to be as American as possible if they are to survive the anti-Japanese feelings that are swirling around them. Quickly they bury their Japanese mementoes in the garden and they quietly kill all their racer pigeons when the military tell them that the pigeons must be destroyed because they are a risk to security. Of course this is ridiculous but they comply, not wanting to draw attention to themselves. Tomi knows that he has to keep a close eye on his grandfather to make sure that the old man does not do anything foolish. Tomi comes to realize that he is now the head of the family and that he has to do all he can to help his mother provide for them all.

Throughout this awful time Tomi has the Rats to help him. He knows that no matter what happens Billy and the others will stand by him. And, of course, there is always baseball.

In this dramatic and touching book young readers will find out what it was like to be a Japanese American in Hawaii in 1941. They will see that innocent people were treated very badly simply because they were born in Japan or because their parents were born in Japan. They will also learn a bit about Japanese culture and customs and they will able to watch Tomi as he comes to terms with who he is. They will be able to see how Tomi learns how to deal with his problems and to appreciate what a brave boy he is.