Red Berries, Blue Sky, White Clouds: Kids' Book on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans
A move from California to Colorado takes place in the new book “Red Berries White Clouds Blue Sky” by Sandra Dallas — but it is certainly nothing to look forward to, especially if you're a kid.
Twelve-year-old Tomi Itano hoped that her little brother Hiro wouldn’t notice the hurtful word on the door of the grocery store. It made her cringe that he was 7 years old and could read the word “Japs.”
It was 1942, and the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. America entered World War II soon after, which caused much discrimination for Japanese-Americans like the Itanos. Tomi, Hiro and their older brother Roy had been born in America, but that didn’t seem to matter to their friends and neighbors.
Mom said “Shikata ga nai” (“It cannot be helped.”). Pop kept working on the strawberry farm where they all lived — until the day the FBI showed up, arrested him and took him away to prison camp. Shortly afterward, the rest of the Itanos packed a single suitcase and were forced to move to a relocation camp.
Ellis, Colo., was nothing at all like California, and Tallgrass Camp was nothing like the strawberry farm. Tomi’s family lived in a barracks surrounded by barbed wire in an area that didn’t seem like it would grow anything. There was a school and a community hall where Mom taught other Japanese-American women to sew, but the Itanos didn’t enjoy living there — especially without Pop. Still, they made friends and started new projects, and things settled into a pattern of normalcy.
Then the one thing Tomi wanted more than anything finally happened — but it made her mad and bitter. The Itanos were as American as anybody, so why were they treated as if they weren’t? She couldn’t stop being angry, until her brother asked her to do something very important.
Japanese Intermnent Camp in US
I really traveled alongside these characters, rooting for them and feeling for their struggles. I know that all readers, young or more advanced, will experience something similar.
In addition to explaining the historical facts, Dallas says in her afterword that years ago she met a couple of Japanese-American journalists who’d spent the war years in relocation camps, and their stories were the basis for part of this book. It will be interesting for readers to root for and identify with Tomi, a regular American girl.
Red Berries White Clouds Blue Sky" by Sandra Dallas