Monday, August 21, 2006

Weedflower

First off: I loved Kira-Kira. My Mock Newbery discussion group picked it, in fact. Kadohata is brilliant with character, tone, and setting.

So I wasn't surprised at how much I liked this book...despite its cover (for a fuller review of cover and plot, I'll let you read fuse#8's.) There's a clarity of voice that engages the reader and makes the story feel real...I think a large part of it is the way Sumiko's voice has an edge of humor to it:

"Later that day Sumiko was so bored, she just flopped to the ground right outside her barrack and didn't move. A butterfly fluttered over her. She wondered if the butterfly were actually the ultimate boredom in disguise. She wondered whether it planned to flutter and flutter and then strike! She wondered if maybe she had already lost her mind. It was possible." (p.128 in proofs)

Yet, the book has a couple of clear weaknesses.

The ending. It feels like Kadohata reached the end of her family story, and just stopped...as if she were too close to the material to pull off a satisfactory completion to the narrative. The ending is probably, therefore, realistic...but I think will leave readers disappointed.

Frank. He's an endearing character, yet somehow a little flat...and just a little off. I don't know enough about the Mohave's experience at Poston to comment more fully on it; but here's the first comment of Frank's that just furrowed my brow a bit: "They take our land and put you on it. They give you electricity. They give you ice. I found a sandwich one of you threw on the road." (p.143 in proofs)

Though this resentment may seem natural, it doesn't actually jive with what I've been able to read about the situation--pretty much the same statement everywhere I poked around, but this is from Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites by J. Burton, M. Farrell, F. Lord, and R. Lord:

"The Colorado River Indian Reservation Tribal Council opposed the use of their land for a relocation center, on the grounds that they did not want to participate in inflicting the same type of injustice as they had suffered. However, the tribe was overruled by the Army and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)."

That sentiment is more clearly reflected in a children's book narrative in Blue Jay in the Desert, a picture book by Marlene Shigekawa (Polychrome Press 1993). Also about the Japanese-American internment experience at Poston, on one page a Mohave man on horseback comes to the gates to help: "Here is some corn to plant to help feed your people. We know what it is like to be moved away from our homes."

Compare that statement with Frank's, and I hope you see what makes me just a little uneasy about this character. Maybe it's accurate to Kadohata's family's experience...but I suspect this is a symptom, again, of being too much inside her own story. Is it enough to drag the story down within the Newbery criteria? We'll see--I have a feeling we'll be discussing this one at length. Please comment!

(one more site I found fascinating is the Poston Restoration Project)

3 Comments:

Blogger Monica Edinger said...

Weedflower was an engaging read, but for me there were intriguing relationships and story lines that were never satisfactorily developed, most of all the one with Frank. And it did seem to sort of just kind of dribble away at the end.

You asked us to post about other books on the list so here is my take on one --- Samuri Shortstop. I like this one a lot! The opening is quite the zinger! Of course, I'd want assurance that all is culturally and historical accurate, but the reviews so far seem to say all is. At any rate, I found this a compelling read, full of engaging characters (not a flat one among them), a fascinating setting, and a powerful theme.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Monica Edinger said...

Correction, that's Samurai Shortstop, of course.

3:04 AM  
Blogger donald said...

I agree with others that the Frank thread was weaker. It began as a very vivid, personal view of events. Frank's situation added an interesting historical slant, but made me feel, for the first time in the book, that there was an author trying to teach me things, rather than the sticking with the powerful characterization of Sumiko that first drew my interest. Still a strong book, but not a contender in my view.

4:21 PM  

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