Place Where Sunflowers Growby Amy Lee-Tai
Mari wonders if anything can bloom at Topaz, where her family is interned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II. The summer sun is blazingly hot, and Mari’s art class has begun. But it’s hard to think of anything to draw in a place where nothing beautiful grows. Somehow, glimmers of hope begin to surface under the harsh sunin the eyes of a kindly art teacher, in the tender words of Mari’s parents, and in the smile of a new friend.Inspired by her family’s experiences, author Amy Lee-Tai has crafted a story rooted in one of America’s most shameful historical episodesthe internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. The art schools which offered internees moments of solace and self-expression are a little known part of this history. Amy Lee-Tai’s gentle prose and Felicia Hoshino’s stunning mixed media images are a testimony to hope and how it can survive alongside even the harshest injustice.
Meet the Author
Felicia Hoshinois a graphic designer and an award-winning illustrator of picture books, among them Lee & Low's A Place Where Sunflowers Grow and Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin. In addition to creating mixed-media images for children’s books and magazines, she enjoys painting children’s portraits, cooking with her husband, and decorating the walls at home with art created by her son and daughter. Hoshino lives in San Francisco, California, with her family. Her website is felishino.com.
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Amy Lee-Tai's award-winner, A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, is a striking departure from typical picture books. Through the story of little Mari, who cannot understand why her family had to leave their home, young readers are given a poignant glimpse of life in a U.S. Japanese American internment camp during World War II. When Mari finds she cannot draw even a single picture in art class, her teacher suggests that she draw something that had made her happy before her family was forced to move to the camp. Reflecting upon the home she had to leave behind, Mari colors a picture of the back yard where she and her brother played on the swing their Papa built, and where the garden was filled with flowers. Sharing her picture with a classmate, Aiko, opens a friendship that blossoms along with the sunflowers Mari planted weeks before. Felicia Hoshino's illustrations are a perfect complement to the story, capturing not only the innocence of childhood, but the harshness of the dreaded camp. Amy Lee-Tai drew upon the experience of her own family in writing A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, sharing with all of us the little known realities of this sad and shameful chapter in American history. For children six and older, this bilingual book should be available in both school and public libraries.
A lovely bilingual picturebook (English/Japanese), A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai features illustrations from Felicia Hoshino and is the intimate story of a young girl and her life among thousands of other Japanese American families interned by the government during World War II in the Topaz Relocation Center in Utah. Deftly contributing to a historically ill state of America and their world, A Place Where Sunflowers Grow follows Mari through the beginning of her art classes during the heat of the summer, her discovery of life, her newly found passion for art, and the use of her art to cope with the harsh circumstances of her family's confinement. Inspired by the author's personal life and family history, A Place Where Sunflowers Grow is very highly recommended for all young readers ages 6 to 10, as well school and community librarians seeking to augment their bilingual picturebook collections.