* "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