Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

House of the Red Fish Audio

House of the Red Fish Audio

Graham Salisbury
For ages 10 and up
Unabridged audiobook (Cassette)
Performed/read by: Jeff Woodman
Recorded Books, 2006   ISBN: 978-1428122383

More than a year ago, when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, Tomi Nakaji’s life was turned upside down. On that fateful day his father was shot and injured and arrested and his father’s helper, Sanji was killed. His father’s fishing boat, a Japanese style sampan, was sunk by U.S. forces soon after. As if this was not bad enough Tomi’s grandfather was also taken into custody. Now the family has to get by on what Tomi’s mother earns from cleaning the Wilson’s house and from money that they get selling chicken eggs. Life is made that much harder because there are groups who are radically anti-Japanese. They go out of their way to make life more difficult for families like Tomi’s. One such group is lead by the Wilson’s son, Keet. Keet has made it his personal mission in life to bully Tomi whenever he can.

Though it is painful for him, Tomi cannot help going down to the canal to look at his father’s sunken boat, remembering what life was like before the bombing and the war. One day, after Keet makes it clear that Tomi must not try to raise the boat, Tomi decides that this is just what he must do. He gets together with his best friends and they get to work, diving on the boat to lighten it as best they can. Other friends hear about the plan and they offer up ideas on how the boat could be raised. They volunteer muscle, tools, even Marine pontoon boats. When Tomi’s grandfather is allowed to come home the project is stepped up and “Ojii-chan” becomes a key player in the operation. Unfortunately Keet also steps up his activities and it becomes a battle of time, wits, and fists between Keet and his thugs, and Tomi and his crew.

This wonderfully written and very powerful work of historical fiction will give listeners a very clear picture of what it was like to be a young American of Japanese descent living in Hawaii soon after the Pearl Harbor tragedy. Not only are two members of Tomi’s family imprisoned, but he also has to deal with being persecuted by anti-Japanese extremists on a regular basis. Raising his father’s boat becomes his way of peacefully fighting back. It is his way of beginning the process of rebuilding and readers will find themselves hoping against hope that he will succeed.

This story is the sequel to “Under the Blood-Red Sun” and it is superbly narrated by Jeff Woodman who truly gets inside the personalities of Tomi and his friends, catching the nuances of their accents and their multi-ethnic backgrounds, and capturing the sometimes complicated societal undercurrents which swirled through Hawaiian life in the war years.