Fish for Jimmy

Fish for Jimmy

by Katie Yamasaki

For two boys in a Japanese-American family, everything changed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States went to war. With the family forced to leave their home and go to an internment camp, Jimmy loses his appetite. Older brother Taro takes matters into his own hands and, night after night, sneaks out of the camp, and catches fresh fish for Jimmy to


For two boys in a Japanese-American family, everything changed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States went to war. With the family forced to leave their home and go to an internment camp, Jimmy loses his appetite. Older brother Taro takes matters into his own hands and, night after night, sneaks out of the camp, and catches fresh fish for Jimmy to help make him strong again.

This affecting tale of courage and love is an adaptation of the author's true family story.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Pamela Paul
Yamasaki…creates sweeping paintings that capture the story in a literal manner even as she makes bold metaphorical leaps…The overall result is a dramatic, visual feast. And Yamasaki gives readers a reassuringly happy ending.
The New York Times Book Review - J. Hoberman
…[a] vivid, revelatory account of John Ford's 1956 masterpiece…
Publishers Weekly
After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government imprisons Jimmy, his brother, and his Japanese-American parents in an internment camp. Without the fresh food he loves, Jimmy stops eating. Illustrator Yamasaki (Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars), in her authorial debut, draws from her own ancestral history as she describes the family’s difficulties, yet she resists dropping hints about what’s to come, making the unfolding of older brother Taro’s plan a genuine surprise: “Quiet as a breeze, Taro wrapped the shears he had secretly borrowed from the camp garden in his mother’s scarf.” Once Taro has successfully cut through the camp’s barbed-wire fence, he makes his way through unfamiliar woods in the dark to a stream, where he catches fish for Jimmy. “Mother laughed as Jimmy ate at last. Taro had forgotten the sound of his mother’s laugh, and it was beautiful.” Only the artwork falters; the uncertain perspective and muddy contours of the figures can make the magical-realist elements of Yamasaki’s paintings difficult to parse. Although memoirs of politically sensitive times are often subdued, this one is unexpectedly suspenseful. Ages 6–10. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Taro and his brother Jimmy swim in the nearby ocean as Taro shows where their parents came from across the sea in Japan. Their father runs a successful vegetable market. But when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, the F.B.I. takes their father away, leaving Taro "the man of the house." Soon all the Japanese are taken away from their homes to live in grim barracks behind fences. Jimmy refuses to eat and becomes ill. So one night Taro slips away, cuts a hole in the fence, and finds a pool where he can catch fresh fish that Jimmy will eat. When their father is finally released to join them, Taro shows him how he finds the fish. Yamasaki's naturalistic acrylic paintings have a folksy flavor and some mystical touches. We see Taro catching fish on the jacket/cover, but each golden fish has a tiny boy riding on its back. Fish also appear on the end pages and in several scenes floating in the air around the camp as if in dreams. Double pages effectively depict the dreary interiors and rows of crude buildings the Japanese families were forced to live in. The author's note adds historical information about the time period and her own family's experience. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Taro's father is taken away for questioning by the FBI, and Taro, his younger brother, and their mother are transported to an internment camp. Jimmy refuses to eat and becomes withdrawn and listless. Taro finds a way to slip outside the camp fences to obtain fresh fish to entice his brother to eat. While the story is moving, it is the acrylic illustrations that are exceptional. The style has a primitive quality, with expressive facial details and body positioning. Yamasaki combines representational and abstract elements in her images. Children will be intrigued immediately by the cover. Taro is picking up fish that have small human figures sleeping on them. Readers soon discover that the figure is Jimmy. By combining what the characters are doing with what they are thinking, the illustrations invite viewers into a deeper level of connection with the story. Space and scale also are used imaginatively. The scene in which Taro leaves the camp is shown as a spread. His movement is demonstrated by four small images of him running, avoiding spotlights and guards. A larger Taro cutting a hole in the fence is the focal point of the painting. Another scene in which Taro is considering how to help Jimmy provides the visual clue of "fish" in an intriguing manner. Although the story is appropriate for a slightly younger audience than Ken Mochizuki's Baseball Saved Us (Lee & Low, 1993) and Eve Bunting's So Far from the Sea (Clarion, 1998), the sophisticated visual images have cross-generational appeal. This book would be appreciated by young children, middle school students learning more about internment camps, and anyone interested in how art can explore emotion.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Based on her great-grandfather's experience in a Japanese "internment camp," Yamasaki tells how Taro takes care of his younger brother, Jimmy, when he stops eating. Fish has been a mainstay of their diet, but there is none in the camp. Much to his mother's shame and distress, Jimmy simply refuses to eat. Yamasaki's muscular acrylics depict fish swimming through the air all around Jimmy, giving concrete image to his longing. To save his brother's life, at night Taro cuts through the barbed-wire fence, finds a distant stream, catches fish with his hands and returns--thus saving Jimmy's life. Primarily a muralist, Yamasaki tellingly conveys the dangers Taro undergoes in her art, since the camp is guarded by armed soldiers in watch towers, closed in by fences and illuminated by floodlights. Her illustrations also picture people and places, both at home and in internment. A "Dear Reader" note relates a brief history of the evacuation and her family's story, accompanied by archival photographs of the author's family and the Granada Relocation Center in Colorado. A new and moving look at one of the most disgraceful events in U.S. history, effectively told with childlike surrealism. (Picture book. 6-10)

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.40(d)
AD880L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Katie Yamasaki is a fine artist, muralist, and teaching artist in the New York City public schools. Yamasaki lives in Brooklyn, New York. To learn more about Katie Yamasaki, visit her at

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