Saturday, June 2, 2012

Torn Apart: The Internment Diary of Mary Kobayashi by Susan Aihoshi

Dear Canada: Torn Apart: The Internment Diary of Mary Kobayashi by Susan Aihoshi
Scholastic Canada
ISBN: 978-0439946605
Published Feb 1, 2012
Hardcover, 216 pages

The Dear Canada series are written in diary format and are a great way for youngsters to get to know Canadian history through the eyes of a 12 year-old girl. My daughter and I have read several of these books together. This one chronicles the events experienced by a Japanese Canadian family during the tumultuous WWII years, especially after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. It's hard to believe that 70 years ago, Canada placed their own citizens in internment camps because their country of origin was at war with Canada's allies.

Mary is a typical Canadian girl who attends Girl Guides, plays tennis and belongs to a grass-hockey team. She has a large family who are of the Catholic faith, with the exception of her grandfather who is Buddhist. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of all the characters--family and friends--she mentions in her diary. The tension begins as the news of war abroad spreads, and people become suspicious of the Japanese people. After fighting prejudice against them since they immigrated in the late 1800s, the Japanese community "was plunged into enormous turmoil. Families were torn apart, education was disrupted, businesses were shut down and thriving neighborhoods were uprooted and destroyed." (p.183)

My daughter who is sensitive chose not to finish this book after reading almost half with me because she knew where the story was heading after Mary's grandfather was sent away to a camp. She knows about the Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses who were sent to camps in Germany, and we talked extensively about why these things have happened and what is still happening in some countries today. The book ends on a hopeful note, and I enjoyed reading the rest of it. It's not graphic, but I did ache for Mary who lost her home, was displaced and had her family scattered, without knowing if they were alive and well.

The story is well written as have been all the ones we read in this series. Mary is a great character and I liked her instantly. She writes about school, her family, her friends but also about her fears, her hopes and her frustrations. The theme of loyal friendships and healthy family pride shines through in this book. I also liked the Japanese words and expressions throughout the book (with glossary in the back) that sometimes added subtle humour to the story.

I think this book should be a part of all Canadian school libraries. It would appeal to middle-graders who like diary-format books and stories from the past.

Note: This book is rated C = clean read.
I will count this book toward the following challenges: YA Historical Fiction Challenge

Reviewed by Laura

Disclosure: Thanks to Nikole Kritikos from Scholastic Canada for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.

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