Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Thin Wood Walls

Thin Wood Walls

David Patneaude
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Houghton Mifflin, 2004   ISBN: 978-0618809158

The war in Europe has been going on for more than a year now but it has not had much of an impact on eleven year old Joe Hanada and his family. Of course they listen to the news and Joe's parents, his grandmother, and his big brother Michael talk about what is going on, but it is all so far away from their hometown in Washington State. On December 7th, 1941 his peaceful life is shattered. Barely hours after the bombing Joe notices that his non Japanese neighbors are looking at him and his family differently. They are looking at the Hanadas with suspicion and anger. Joe tries to understand this sudden change but it is hard to come to terms with. Why do so many of his school mates hate him now? He is an American citizen, just like them. He's not some dangerous America-hating "Jap."

Not long after the attack on Hawaii, Joe's father is taken away by the FBI to some undisclosed location. The family members do their best to keep on going, and bravely they keep hoping for a better future. Even when they are told that they too are going to be taken from their home, the Hanadas refuse to allow despair to overwhelm them.

Joe, his brother, their mother, and their grandmother end up being sent to the Tule Lake detention center in northern California. There they lived in just one room in a mini city full of thousands of other people who were sent there just because they were of "Japanese descent." Joe's brother Michael is angry. He is eager to prove to the government that he is not what they think he is. He loves his country and does not deserve to be treated like a prisoner. Joe takes refuge in his writing, creating haikus which resonate with his pain, feeling of loss, and worry.

In this exceptional and very moving book David Patneaude gives an extraordinary account of what it was like to be sent to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Rich with descriptions, haikus, and background material about this very difficult time in American history, Patneaude's story serves as a fitting tribute to all those Japanese-American families who suffered so much at the hands of the American government and the American people. For more information about the Tule Lake Japanese internment camp readers can visit the following website: