In dreamlike sequences, a man symbolically confronts the trauma of his family's incarceration in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. This infamous event is made emotionally clear through his meeting a group of children all with strange name tags pinned to their coats. The man feels the helplessness of the children. Finally, desperately he releases the name tags like birds into the air to find their way home with the hope for a time when Americans will be seen as one people—not judged, mistrusted, ...
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Home of the Brave

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In dreamlike sequences, a man symbolically confronts the trauma of his family's incarceration in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. This infamous event is made emotionally clear through his meeting a group of children all with strange name tags pinned to their coats. The man feels the helplessness of the children. Finally, desperately he releases the name tags like birds into the air to find their way home with the hope for a time when Americans will be seen as one people—not judged, mistrusted, or segregated because of their individual heritage.

Sixty years after thousands of Japanese Americans were unjustly imprisoned, the cogent prose and haunting paintings of renowned author and illustrator Allen Say remind readers of a dark chapter in America's history.

Following a kayaking accident, a man experiences the feelings of children interned during World War II and children on Indian reservations.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Breaking from such previous works as Tea with Milk and Grandfather's Journey, which featured a realistic sequence of events, Caldecott Medalist Say here enters the realm of dream or rather, nightmare. The opening image shows a man dwarfed by an ominous, craggy stone edifice at the edge of a shore, as he prepares to step into his kayak. In the next spread, the man, wearing a red helmet and vest that match his vessel, hurls over a waterfall; the sky resembles billowing black smoke that blends with the rocky cliffs ("The man closed his eyes and held his breath"). Say's use of light and dark has a haunting effect, as the man first surfaces in an underground tunnel with a faint glimmer of sunlight; the light then shifts from horizontal to vertical as it illuminates a ladder. Barren land awaits above, with a single structure: "Must be an Indian reservation, he thought." Two children sit against an adobe ruin with nametags around their necks, explaining they are "from the camp." Details in the meticulously rendered watercolors reveal that the children are referring to an internment camp: a row of abandoned identical wooden houses sit on the desert floor of a valley (and hark back to the deserted Indian reservation); thousands of children with identical tags chant "Take us home!"; searchlights from high watchtowers follow them as they flee. Other details link the hero's fate with theirs, but the final image is uplifting. Much remains enigmatic: most children will require the aid of an older reader to make sense of the historical context, and may be put off by the dark and lonely vistas. However, the images create an internal logic of their own, as emotionally convincing as any waking experience. All ages. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
When his kayak overturns, a man has a mystical encounter with two children. They take him to an internment camp for Japanese in World War II, where masses of children with nametags chant "Take us home." He finds his name, which is also his father's on one tag; his mother's on another. He awakens on a riverbank to reality, with other children of today. But still there are mysterious nametags that fly away like birds, "home." The inherent mystery of this allegory is made no clearer in the sequence of full-page naturalistic paintings facing the pages of text, contributing an emotional content as they visualize the words. Gray-greens dominate the barren landscapes and even tint the sky. The line of empty barracks in the camp is particularly depressing. We are invited to create our own interpretation, but Say tells us that he was provoked on this personal journey by an exhibition about the internment camps in which 120,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned. An introduction to this important chapter of our history. 2002, Walter Lorraine Books/Houghton Mifflin,
— Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up-While Say strives to call attention to the plight of Japanese-Americans unjustly interred in camps during World War II, this enigmatic picture book may serve only to confuse. A man embarks on a kayak trip, loses his boat and gear in churning rapids, and ends up in a cave. He emerges in a desert where he encounters two girls wearing name tags who are "Waiting to go home." The three struggle through the wind-swept desert to what they believe is a town, but in reality is a row of wooden, tar-papered buildings. There the horrified man stares through a window to find nothing but a tag with his name on it, while outside a large group of children chant, "Take us home!" Bellowing loudspeakers send the children scampering away, leaving behind a tag bearing the name of the man's mother. The weary traveler climbs back down into the cave and falls asleep. When he awakens, he and a different group of children watch as the wind sends name tags lying on the ground flying into the air. The man releases the two tags he has found as well. Say's large, realistic watercolors bordered in white appear to the right of each page of text. The desert scenes are rendered in gray and sepia tones and aptly convey the starkness of the surroundings. The cover picture in which the man and girls appear as tiny figures before an endless row of barracks and immense mountains emphasizes their powerlessness. Pictures of the empty buildings and the children, their mouths rounded in pleas for "home," are particularly chilling. The released tags at the end offer some hopeful light, but readers will need help finding their way through this dark, puzzling journey.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Say (The Sign Painter, 2000, etc.) takes readers on a very personal and perplexing journey in this latest outing, melding together, in dream and nightmare-like fashion, the past, present, and future. This non-linear, fantasy story-within-a-story begins in present day with a man setting off in his kayak and being carried over an enormous waterfall. Here, minus kayak and equipment, he finds himself in a cave at the foot of a ladder, which leads him to the desert above. At this point, Say establishes a Native American connection-an Indian reservation. But then, finding two lost children who are unable to tell him where their home is, he leads them toward the lights of an internment camp that is both present-day deserted and in full WWII use. At the camp, the man finds an ID tag with his own name on it, and a large group of Japanese-American children chanting, "Take us home." Searchlights from two watchtowers scan the group and everyone runs. In the next painting, the man appears beside a Pueblo kiva. He climbs down another ladder and falls asleep. The children he sees when he wakes are Native American, not Japanese; those children have gone home. In this cryptic story, which relies on both words and pictures, Say exhibits a political tone not seen in his previous work. He explores difficult pieces of US history (Indian reservations, Japanese internment camps), making a tenuous, but powerful, connection, and focusing on the sadness and bewilderment of the children. Adults and families are absent here. The images are photographic and hauntingly beautiful, but the symbolism is not always clear, especially for a child reader who lacks historical context. While providing much to speculate on,this will probably find its rightful audience with teens and adults. (author's note) (Picture book. 10+)
From the Publisher
"Say here enters the realm of dream—or rather, nightmare. Say's use of light and dark has a haunting effect...the images create an internal logic of their own, as emotionally convincing as any waking experience." Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Say's use of darkness in the portrayal of childhood innocence is a poignant interpretation of what children, whatever their culture, must feel when so tiny and scared and far from where they long to be." The Los Angeles Times

"What Say does so successfully here is to show how displaced children feel; how, through some unnamed strength, they manage to survive and find their way home....The story's real focus is not so much the re-examination of America's historical past as the recollection of its emotional past—a past we become a part of through Allen Say's intense dreamscape." The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547345956
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/30/2002
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book—published in 1972—in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.

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