Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family's Experience in a Japanese American Internment Camp

by Katie Yamasaki (Author)

Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family's Experience in a Japanese American Internment Camp
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

For two boys in a Japanese American family, everything changed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States went to war.

With the family forced to leave their home and go to an internment camp, Jimmy loses his appetite. Older brother Taro takes matters into his own hands and, night after night, sneaks out of the camp and catches fresh fish for Jimmy to help make him strong again.

This affecting tale of courage and love is an adaptation of the author's true family story, and includes a letter to readers with more information about the historical background and inspiration.


Publishers Weekly

After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government imprisons Jimmy, his brother, and his Japanese-American parents in an internment camp. Without the fresh food he loves, Jimmy stops eating. Illustrator Yamasaki (Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars), in her authorial debut, draws from her own ancestral history as she describes the family's difficulties, yet she resists dropping hints about what's to come, making the unfolding of older brother Taro's plan a genuine surprise: "Quiet as a breeze, Taro wrapped the shears he had secretly borrowed from the camp garden in his mother's scarf." Once Taro has successfully cut through the camp's barbed-wire fence, he makes his way through unfamiliar woods in the dark to a stream, where he catches fish for Jimmy. "Mother laughed as Jimmy ate at last. Taro had forgotten the sound of his mother's laugh, and it was beautiful." Only the artwork falters; the uncertain perspective and muddy contours of the figures can make the magical-realist elements of Yamasaki's paintings difficult to parse. Although memoirs of politically sensitive times are often subdued, this one is unexpectedly suspenseful. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)

Copyright 2013 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-3--Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Taro's father is taken away for questioning by the FBI, and Taro, his younger brother, and their mother are transported to an internment camp. Jimmy refuses to eat and becomes withdrawn and listless. Taro finds a way to slip outside the camp fences to obtain fresh fish to entice his brother to eat. While the story is moving, it is the acrylic illustrations that are exceptional. The style has a primitive quality, with expressive facial details and body positioning. Yamasaki combines representational and abstract elements in her images. Children will be intrigued immediately by the cover. Taro is picking up fish that have small human figures sleeping on them. Readers soon discover that the figure is Jimmy. By combining what the characters are doing with what they are thinking, the illustrations invite viewers into a deeper level of connection with the story. Space and scale also are used imaginatively. The scene in which Taro leaves the camp is shown as a spread. His movement is demonstrated by four small images of him running, avoiding spotlights and guards. A larger Taro cutting a hole in the fence is the focal point of the painting. Another scene in which Taro is considering how to help Jimmy provides the visual clue of "fish" in an intriguing manner. Although the story is appropriate for a slightly younger audience than Ken Mochizuki's Baseball Saved Us (Lee & Low, 1993) and Eve Bunting's So Far from the Sea (Clarion, 1998), the sophisticated visual images have cross-generational appeal. This book would be appreciated by young children, middle school students learning more about internment camps, and anyone interested in how art can explore emotion.--Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA

Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Illustrator Yamasaki (Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars), in her authorial debut, draws from her own ancestral history as she describes the family's difficulties, yet she resists dropping hints about what's to come. . . Although memoirs of politically sensitive times are often subdued, this one is unexpectedly suspenseful." —Publishers Weekly

"A new and moving look at one of the most disgraceful events in U.S. history, effectively told with childlike surrealism." —Kirkus Reviews

"Yamasaki, who works as a muralist and educator, creates sweeping paintings that capture the story in a literal manner even as she makes bold metaphorical leaps. When the two boys lie in bed at night, the menacing shadows of the camp's guard tower are imprinted on their blankets. The family stands poised on Taro's reclining form, while the imagined torsos of F.B.I. agents loom in a forbidding muddy background. One of the most moving spreads shows Taro capturing fish in a river, each fish carrying a reclining Jimmy on its back. The overall result is a dramatic, visual feast. And Yamasaki gives readers a reassuringly happy ending." —New York Times
Katie Yamasaki
Katie Yamasaki is a muralist, author, and teacher. When she was growing up, the World War II internment of 110,000 Japanese and Japanese American citizens was never discussed in school--even though most of Katie's Japanese family was interned. Inspired by her family's history, she wrote Fish for Jimmy to honor their bravery and the memory of those like them. Based in Brooklyn, New York, she travels widely across the world to paint in and work with diverse communities. She is passionate about art as dialogue and storytelling.
Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9780823423750
Lexile Measure
880L
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
Holiday House
Publication date
February 20, 2013
Series
-

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