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Children's LiteratureUsing her brother's binoculars, eleven-year-old Hazel Anderson has been keeping a lookout for enemy planes near her Hood River Valley, Oregon, home ever since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on her ninth birthday. Coming back from one of her scouting outings, she finds a small strip of paper with Japanese characters written on it flapping in the wind. She tries to translate the message, fearing the words are a message to the Japanese emperor. She makes out two words "mother" and "tree" but even those may not be right, so she delays taking the information to the police station. One day she hears someone chopping brush at her neighbor's house and comes face to face with what looks like a Japanese boy. Her neighbor, Mr. Lanski, explains that Sogoji is an American. Orphaned, he was hidden by the Lanskis when the other Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps. Hazel wrestles with keeping Sogoji's secret, not knowing for sure whether he is the enemy. The two develop a friendship that is tested when Hazel and her brother, Frank, find evidence of a balloon attack on US soil. When Sogoji is discovered by authorities and sent to an internment camp, Hazel decides what it means to stand up for your beliefs. This well-crafted novel tackles subjects as difficult today as they were during World War II—loyalty, patriotism, and the meaning of friendship. 2005, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House, Ages 10 to 14.
—Valerie O. Patterson