Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Price: $5.99 U.S. ($6.99 CAN) Paperback
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks an imprint of Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: Aladdin Edition: January 2009, Original: 2006
Number of Pages: 260
Twelve-year-old Sumiko feels her life has been made up of two parts: before Pearl Harbor and after it. The good part and the bad part. Raised on a flower farm in California, Sumiko is used to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Even when the other kids tease her, she always has had her flowers and family to go home to.
That all changes after the horrific events of Pearl Harbor. Other Americans start to suspect that all Japanese people are spies for the emperor, even if, like Sumiko, they were born in the United States. As suspicions grow, Sumiko and her family find themselves being shipped to an internment camp in one of the hottest deserts in the United States. The vivid color of her previous life is gone forever, and now dust storms regularly choke the sky and seep into every crack of the military barrack that is her new "home."
Sumiko soon discovers that the camp is on an Indian reservation and that the Japanese are as unwanted there as they'd been at home. But then she meets a young Mohave boy who might just become her first real friend...if he can ever stop being angry about the fact that the internment camp is on his tribe's land.
With searing insight and clarity, Newbery Medal-winning author Cynthia Kadohata explores an important and painful topic through the eyes of a young girl who yearns to belong. Weedflower is the story of the rewards and challenges of a friendship across the racial divide, as well as the based-on-real-life story of how the meeting of Japanese Americans and Native Americans changed the future of both.
Before I start this review I just want to say one thing: I wouldn't have picked this book up if one of my favourite teachers hadn't recommended it to me. I often find historical fiction books confusing. In other words: history is not my favourite subject.
Halfway throughout this novel I thought I had the review already figured out: The Japanese internment idea was unique. Sumiko's lifestyle was very interesting to read about and it was described well. But.
I don't know if this was just me but the author wrote like she was talking to a six-year-old. Cynthia Kadohata's word choice was simple except for the occasional odd sentence or two. Japanese terms in this book were common and they were translated, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what they meant so I had to flip back a few pages and find the term. The protagonist's friendship with the Mohave boy occurred at the very end of the book so for a good chunk of this novel I was, well, bored. But.
Even though there wasn't much action in the beginning of this novel and Sumiko's friendship with Frank (the Mohave boy) didn't bloom until the end of the book, the friendship felt . . . different. Not like what so many people these day, especially kids, label as "friends" but something else.
Considering the fact that Frank and Sumiko were different genders, there was none of that mushy-gushy stuff or the "ewww, you're a girl" stuff either. The friendship between these two was close to hatred at first, but it grew to something unexpected - in more ways then one. I think that everyone should read this novel, if just for the ending.
The Bottom Line: An alright book but the author's take on friendship was "wow". This one is for you, historical fiction fans! B-.