Saturday, September 25, 2010
A Guaranteed Good Read
by Kirby Larson
Scholastic (September, 2010)
THE FENCES BETWEEN US reintroduces Scholastic's Dear America series through the diary of thirteen-year-old Piper Davis who witnesses the incarceration of her preacher father's entire congregation of Japanese immigrants and their American-born children during World War II.
As author Kirby Larson expertly reveals over the course of the novel, it was one of our country's darkest secrets and deepest shames—particularly in the Pacific Northwest where the threat of an attack from without and within our borders felt imminent (sadly, not all that different from today).
Piper's account of the events leading up to, and during, the incarceration of Japanese Americans is carried by the impeccable voice of authentic self-interest that slowly evolves from lipstick and boyfriend drama to the realities of war and fear of "otherness."
Larson ups the emotional ante for Piper, whose brother is stationed in Pearl Harbor when his ship is attacked. So, while her father attends to the victims of war at home—to the point of moving with Piper to Idaho Falls to be with his congregation fenced inside Camp Minidoka—she follows news reports of the war in the Pacific with an added level of fear for her brother's life.
Through Piper's recounting of the news, as well as her vivid description of conditions inside two incarceration camps (thanks to Larson's brilliant decision to make Piper a budding photographer), THE FENCES BETWEEN US explores the war far and near without ever feeling like a history lesson.
The voice of Piper is pitch perfect, adding yet another layer of authenticity to a fictional account that feels so very real. Piper's entries are loaded with the idioms, values, and facts of the day in a natural, unforced way. And, as she changes, so too does the reader, as we transform from outsider to insider, peering through the fog of war to find some clarity and understanding.
This is education at its best—when it makes the reader think beyond the dry facts to what it all means in human terms.
Kids, teachers, and librarians will love this riveting relaunch of Scholastic's Dear America series.
Because I know and adore Kirby Larson, one could argue that my opinions are biased. So, just to keep my integrity, I'll stand behind my words with a money back guarantee. If you are not completely satisfied with THE FENCES BETWEEN US, send your copy to the South Sound Reading Foundation, email to let me know, and I will refund your money. F'real.
Source: I bought my copy at Third Place Books