So Far from the Sea

Overview

Laura Iwasaki and her family are paying what may be their last visit to Laura's grandfather's grave. The grave is at Manzanar, where thousands of Americans of Japanese heritage were interned during World War II. Among those rounded up and taken to the internment camp were Laura's father, then a small boy, and his parents. Now Laura says goodbye to Grandfather in her own special way, with a gesture that crosses generational lines and bears witness to the patriotism that survived a shameful episode in America's ...

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So Far from the Sea

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Overview

Laura Iwasaki and her family are paying what may be their last visit to Laura's grandfather's grave. The grave is at Manzanar, where thousands of Americans of Japanese heritage were interned during World War II. Among those rounded up and taken to the internment camp were Laura's father, then a small boy, and his parents. Now Laura says goodbye to Grandfather in her own special way, with a gesture that crosses generational lines and bears witness to the patriotism that survived a shameful episode in America's history. Eve Bunting's poignant text and Chris K. Soentpiet's detailed, evocative paintings make the story of this family's visit to Manzanar, and of the memories stirred by the experience, one that will linger in readers' minds and hearts. Afterword.

When seven-year-old Laura and her family visit Grandfather's grave at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, the Japanese American child leaves behind a special symbol.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Caitlin Bellinger
Before Laura's family moves from California to Massachusetts, they make one final trip to Manzaner War Relocation Center where her grandfather, grandmother, and father lived during World War II. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the Japanese-Americans were all relocated to centers for fear they would rejoin Japan for another attack on the United States. Though no evidence remains of the structures that once occupied the site, Laura can feel the ghosts of those who once lived there. The purpose of this trip is not just to visit the site but also to say goodbye to Laura's grandfather who is buried, with so many others, in a small cemetery near the site of the relocation center. During this trip, Laura struggles with her thoughts about the treatment of her family and the other American-Japanese who called America home. The illustrations by Chris Soentpiet are breath-taking, even in the simplicity of the family walking across the bare ground where the relocation center once stood and the offerings left at the monument to those who died in the center. This book provides a glimpse into a time of which many Americans know little and gives the reader a child's perspective on her own family history against the backdrop of World War II. Reviewer: Caitlin Bellinger
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bunting's (Smoky Night) eloquent yet spare narrative introduces nine-year-old Laura, who recounts her family's 1972 visit to the site of the former Manzanar War Relocation Camp in eastern California. Thirty years earlier, her father and his parents were interned there, along with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Soon to move to Boston, Laura, her younger brother and parents pay a final visit to the grave of the children's grandfather, a tuna fisherman robbed of his boat, home and dignity when the U.S. government sent his family to this remote camp, far from the sea he loved. Thoughtful and sympathetic, Laura has brought a chillingly ironic offering for the ancestor she never knew. It is the neckerchief from her father's Cub Scout uniform, which her grandfather had insisted his son wear on the day soldiers arrived at their home to transport them to the camp: "That way they will know you are a true American and they will not take you." Soentpiet's (More Than Anything Else) portrait of the uniformed boy respectfully saluting the soldiers as his mournful parents embrace is only one of numerous wrenching images that will haunt readers long after the last page is turned. Rendered with striking clarity, the artist's watercolors recreate two vastly different settings, evoking the tense 1940s scenarios in black and white and the serene yet wistful 1970s setting in bright color. An exceptionally effective collaboration.
Children's Literature - Karen Leggett
Laura Iwasaki and her family visit the Manzanar War Relocation Camp in California, where 10,000 Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II. Laura's father went to school there; her grandfather is buried there. Grandfather was a fisherman; the government took his boat and "his dignity when they brought him here, so far from the sea." Laura leaves a memento on the grave -- the Cub Scout neckerchief her father was wearing when he was taken to the camp. The ends of the neckerchief flutter free, like "a boat, moving on." Eve Bunting weaves a touching and emotional story around the facts of this wartime tragedy. Chris Soentpiet (pronounced soon-pete) alternates somber black and white paintings of the camp with richly colored, touching illustrations of the family visit years later. So Far From the Sea offers an elegant and very human approach an extremely difficult episode in American history.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
The Iwasaki's, a fictional family, visit the Manzanar War Relocation Camp in Eastern California to say good-bye to Laura's grandfather who is buried there. Laura's father, who was a boy during the internment, recalls life at Manzanar. A story he tells her helps her decide on the perfect memento to leave at her grandfather's grave. Mr. Soentpiet's paintings are in color to show contemporary time and sepia to show the past. They convey the painful emotions and the familial love of those who endured and are remembered. Story and characters take center stage in Ms. Bunting's books. She tackles tough subjects in picture book format perhaps because the fewer the words, the stronger the effect of the book's theme.
School Library Journal
All the more moving in its restraint, this picture-book account of a fictional family reveals, with gentle dignity, a sad chapter in American history. Laura Iwasaki and her Japanese-American family will soon move from California to Boston, so they are making one last visit to Laura's grandfather's grave, which lies near the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so far from the sea he loved. Before World War II, he was a fisherman. Then, along with Laura's father, her grandmother, and 10,000 other Japanese Americans, he was sent to the Manzanar War Relocation Center. There he died, and his grave is marked with only a ring of stones. The family leaves silk flowers, but Laura leaves her own special memento. Soentpiet's impressionistic watercolors perfectly complement Bunting's evocative text. Both create a palpable sense of Manzanar as it is today: a windy, isolated place, its buildings gone, dominated by snow-covered mountains. Black-and-white paintings that suggest `40s photographs illustrate Laura's father's memories of the camp. This book is much more personal than Sheila Hamanaka's nonfiction text for her mural, The Journey ("Orchard", 1990), and more accessible. At the story's end, Laura whispers, "It was wrong." Her father answers, "Sometimes in the end there is no right or wrong....It is just a thing that happened long years ago. A thing that cannot be changed." Yet art and text invite a new generation of Americans to remember that things can go terribly wrong when fear and hysteria prevail. -- Margaret A. Chang, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
A. Magazine
...[A]n emotional journey...should provide further discussion of not only what happened, but why it is such an ugly chapter in American history.
Kirkus Reviews
Political history becomes personal narrative in this evocative story about a family's connection to Manzanar, one of the WW II camps where Japanese-Americans were interned. Prior to moving from California to Boston, the Iwasakis pay a last visit to the grave of Grandfather Iwasaki. Gazing across acres of empty space that once housed close to 10,000 prisoners, Mr. and Mrs. Iwasaki share vivid memories of camp life with their two young children, Thomas and Laura. As they struggle to explain the unfair treatment accorded her ancestors, Laura listens quietly, then, just before leaving, places one final memento on her grandfather's grave. Bunting's spare prose effectively matches the developmental level of the ages for which this book is geared, and will generate questions that both educators and parents will find difficult to answer. Stark watercolors of the present alternate with black-and-white drawings representing scenes from the past. Together, text and illustrations create and sustain a mood of reflection and reminiscence suited to the topic.
From the Publisher
"Bunting's spare prose effectively matches the developmental level of the ages for which this book is geared, and will generate questions that both educators and parents will find difficult to answer. Stark watercolors of the present alternate with black-and-white drawings representing scenes from the past. Together, text and illustrations create and sustain a mood of reflection and reminiscence suited to the topic." Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547237527
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/29/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 157,786
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 10.30 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

EVE BUNTING has written over two hundred books for children, including the Caldecott Medal-winning Smoky Night, illustrated by David Diaz. She lives in Southern California.

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