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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Fish for Jimmy, written and illustrated by Katie Yamasaki. Holiday House, Thomas Allen & Son. 2013. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"Jimmy didn't understand why his family couldn't be together at home near the Pacific Ocean, at home where they could eat in their own kitchen. Why couldn't his mother cook the good rice and noodles, fresh vegetables and fish that he was used to?"

In her first book as both writer and illustrator, Katie Yamasaki takes a page from her family's history to tell the story of Taro and Jimmy. They live in California and enjoy a full and happy life. Their father has come to the United States to open a vegetable market, and their mother cooks fish caught fresh from the Pacific as a daily staple.

When Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, their family life is dramatically changed. First, their father is taken from them. Then, they are placed in an internment camp with their mother, hemmed in by barbed wire and armed guards. There is no clear reason for this happening. The most haunting effect for the family is Jimmy's refusal to eat the unfamiliar food offered in the camp's kitchen. There is no fish. Jimmy longs for fish. Taro and his mother don't know how to make things better until, one day, Taro summons up all of his courage and sneaks out of the camp. When he returns, he has fresh fish for his mother to prepare...a familiar and welcome feast for Jimmy.  His brave deed makes a big difference!

The artwork is dramatic and telling. Readers will need to take careful note of each of the spreads to see what the artist cleverly includes in them. The colors are bold, showing the danger that is ever-present and the strong family bonds that allow them to survive their imprisonment.  

This is an important historical story.  In a “Dear Reader” note the author shares this page from her family's history and provides archival photographs of their internment in the Granada Relocation Center in Colorado. It was a terrible time for so many and stories such as this remind us that it must not happen again!

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