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About The Book

“Evocative prose and illustrations bring to life…[the] heart-wrenching decisions and considerations that Japanese Americans had to face…[and] their endurance, sacrifices, and resilience, even as their loyalty was questioned without cause.” —Susan H. Kamei, author of When Can We Go Back to America?

Told in a brilliant blend of prose and graphic novel, this unforgettable middle grade story about a Japanese American family during World War II is written and illustrated by Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature winner Matt Faulkner.

Manzanar is nothing like home. Yet the relocation center is where Mari and her family have to live, now that the government has decided that Japanese Americans aren’t American enough. Determined to prove them wrong, Mari’s brother Mak has joined the army and is heading off to war. In protest, Mari has stopped talking for the duration of the war. Or at least until Mak comes home safe.

Still, Mari has no trouble expressing herself through her drawings. Mak, too, expresses himself in his letters home, first from training camp and later from the front lines of World War II, where he is fighting with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. But while his letters are reassuring, reality is not: Mak is facing danger at every turn, from racism within the army to violence on the battlefield.

In turns humorous and heartbreaking, Mari and Mak’s story will stick with readers long after the last page.

Excerpt

Chapter 1: That’ll Teach Them

1. THAT’LL TEACH THEM
It was a greyhound, my father said, a kind of dog, painted on the side of the bus. It didn’t look like a dog. Not in the least. Trust me. If I were going to draw a dog, it wouldn’t look like that thing. I was trying to figure out what this “dog” thing actually looked like when the bus pulled away, taking my brother off to the army. I waved to him. The windows were so dirty, I couldn’t tell if he was waving back. So I waved harder. While I was waving, I noticed a suspicious-looking dust cloud rising up behind the bus. It loomed over my parents and me and took on the appearance of a hammer. I was sure it was up to no good. Luckily, a breeze grabbed ahold of it and tossed the dust hammer onto the side of the road.

I wish I hadn’t been so concerned about the dust-cloud hammer, because by the time I’d confirmed that it wasn’t going to clobber us, I realized that the bus was very, very far away. A moment later it and Mak were gone, disappearing behind a distant hill. I kept waving anyway.

If he’d been there, Mak would’ve laughed at me.

Hey, kabocha-head! I could hear him say. Get a load of you worrying about a dust cloud. You and your crazy imagination!

I rubbed my head where I imagined Mak would’ve applied his noogies. Funny thing was, I’d always hollered and squealed in the past when he rubbed my head with his knuckles. But now I actually missed them, Mak and his noogies. I pictured Mak’s face, his eyes and eyebrows and the silly-looking glasses he wore, the way the little scar over his lip would tilt upward when he smiled. I jumped when Mama called my name.

“Come along, Mari,” said Mama as she and Father started the long walk back to the barracks. (Like all the other grown-ups at the camp, they always spoke in Japanese. They had emigrated from Japan and didn’t learn English when they were growing up, the way Mak and I did. We spoke in Japanese too when we talked with them, though when it was just Mak and me, we spoke English like the other kids. So as you read, just imagine our conversations are all in Japanese.)

“Mari!” said Father. “It’s dinnertime! Come along.”

Dinner? Honestly, Father! Mak is going to war on a dirty bus with a stupid dog thing painted on the side of it, and all you care about is dinner. I stood there for a moment, furious, thinking about dust clouds that looked like hammers, about my selfish big brother who’d made a stupid decision to go to war without discussing it with me first, and about my father needing to go eat another piece of boiled SPAM in the mess hall.

It was right then that I decided I wouldn’t talk anymore.

I remember saying to myself, I know what’ll teach them. I’m not going to talk anymore. Later on I added, Or at least until Mak comes home. But I didn’t add that part till I’d spent a few days not talking. Take it from me, not talking is not easy.

“Mari! Please,” hollered Father.

I spun about, stomped after my parents, and caught up to them. As we passed the guard post by the front gate, the sentry smiled at me. I stuck out my tongue.

That’ll teach him, too.


About The Author

Matt Faulkner is an acclaimed illustrator who has written and illustrated more than thirty books, including Gaijin: American Prisoner of War, which won the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Literature Award. He is married to author and children’s librarian, Kris Remenar. Visit him at MattFaulkner.com.

About The Illustrator

Matt Faulkner is an acclaimed illustrator who has written and illustrated more than thirty books, including Gaijin: American Prisoner of War, which won the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Literature Award. He is married to author and children’s librarian, Kris Remenar. Visit him at MattFaulkner.com.

Why We Love It

“This story captured my heart from the moment I met Mari, a gutsy, talented young artist imprisoned in Manzanar with her family, and her brave, loving older brother Mak, who joins the 442nd battalion and risks his life on the front lines of World War II. There are too few books about the experiences of Japanese Americans during this dark time in American history; now Matt Faulkner has created a brilliant blend of narrative text, art, and graphic novel sections to immerse young readers in that experience.”

—Reka S., Editorial Director, on My Nest of Silence

Product Details

Raves and Reviews

* "A combination of narrative fiction and graphic novel, this hybrid delivery of a brave story depicts the Japanese American experience during World War II and will be a hit with reluctant readers. At times heartbreaking and other times hopeful, this story of the power of family and ugliness of hate is a first purchase for any library and a must-read for students who enjoy historical fiction or graphic novels." 

School Library Journal, STARRED Review

* "Mari’s reflective internal narrative, coupled with Mak’s action-packed sequences, marks this unique contribution to the growing body of work in children’s literature around Japanese American internment."

Horn Book Magazine, STARRED Review, 

It’s 1944, World War II is raging on, and in the wake of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Mari and her family have been interned at Manzanar War Relocation Center for over a year because they are Japanese American. When Mari’s brother and best friend Mak turns 18, he joins the U.S. Army, devastating Mari and infuriating his father. Frequently described as “abnormal,” Mari takes a vow of silence until either the war ends, or Mak comes home. While her brother is away, Mari tells readers her story through a first-person narrative. She shares her thoughts on her neighbors like the Clucking Sisters and Oba-Chan Yuki and describes daily life in the camp, from art classes with other camp children to lending a helping hand at Manzanar’s orphanage. The most important part of Mari’s day is whenever she gets the chance to draw. Drawing is her passion, something she can do when the world doesn’t make sense and it’s a way to relate to others. While away, Mak writes often, regaling her with tales from bootcamp and later on the European front. However, readers catch a glimpse into the reality of Mak’s life as a soldier through graphic novel interludes, where black-and-white comic panels bring his true experiences to life. Assigned to an all–Japanese American battalion, he finds every aspect of his enlisting informed by prejudice and discrimination. A combination of narrative fiction and graphic novel, this hybrid delivery of a brave story depicts the Japanese American experience during World War II and will be a hit with reluctant readers.

VERDICT At times heartbreaking and other times hopeful, this story of the power of family and ugliness of hate is a first purchase for any library and a must-read for students who enjoy historical fiction or graphic novels.–Maryjean Riou

– School Library Journal, October 2022

* "Faulkner employs stunningly realistic b&w comics spreads and aching prose to deliver a forthright account of one Japanese American family during WWII. . . Via Mari’s earnest narration, her and Mak’s stories interweave, showcasing with candid clarity the cruelty both siblings endure. A vividly wrought, necessary exploration of Japanese American history." 

Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

Faulkner (Gaijin: American Prisoner of War) employs stunningly realistic b&w comics spreads and aching prose to deliver a forthright account of one Japanese American family during WWII. Ten-year-old Mari Asai and her older brother Mak live in Manzanar, a Japanese internment camp in California. When Mak enlists in the U.S. Army against their father’s wishes and is deployed, Mari, frustrated with her family’s infighting, vows not to speak until Mak returns. She seeks solace in her art and in the letters that Mak sends home, which describe his experiences in basic training and during overseas conflict, though he attempts to mask the brutality of war through lighthearted anecdotes (“The food here is even worse than at Manzanar. Lots of beans and root veggies. And SPAM! Blech!”). During his absence, Mari buckles emotionally under Manzanar’s increasingly squalid conditions. Faulkner’s digital art mimics pencil sketches; delicate line work portrays intimate character close-ups while bolder strokes splay across full-spread battle scenes. Via Mari’s earnest narration, her and Mak’s stories interweave, showcasing with candid clarity the cruelty both siblings endure. A vividly wrought, necessary exploration of Japanese American history. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)

– Publishers Weekly, 9/05/2022

"Told through prose and black-and-white comic panels, Mari’s and Mak’s stories come to life. . . the stark inequities that Japanese Americans faced as well as the quieter struggle of parents and children trying to understand each other and grow together both shine through. A Japanese American incarceration narrative told through an original and effective blend of prose and illustration." 

Kirkus Reviews

* "Faulkner presents an ingenious hybrid format, assigning the prose chapters to Mari, who writes what she can’t say, while the graphic panels belong to Mak. Faulkner stupendously draws Mak’s experiences as a Japanese American soldier, and the revealing panels make for a cutting contrast to Mak’s protectively reassuring letters to Mari. Deftly combining the personal and historical, Faulkner alchemizes his extended family’s past into magnificent, essential testimony."

Booklist, Starred Review

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