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

illus. by author. 40p. Holiday House. Apr. 2013. RTE $16.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-2375-0. LC 2012006584.
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 Jimmy refuses to eat and becomes withdrawn and listless.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
Rich, expressive acrylic paintings lend dreamlike imagery to a piece of historical fiction about an all-too-real time. It is 1941, and Taro and his younger brother, Jimmy, live in California with their Japanese-immigrant parents. They have a comfortable life together until the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent arrest of their father. Soon after, the rest of the family is bused to an internment camp. At the camp, Jimmy stops eating, rejecting the unfamiliar food and longing for the fresh vegetables and fish his mother cooked at home, and Taro decides to take a dangerous risk to save his brother. Varying perspectives create interesting layouts, while rooms morph into landscapes and surrealistic fish seem to swim through the air, bringing symbolic meaning to the full-bleed double-page spreads. An author's note and archival photographs in the back matter provide some history on internment camps and explain that the book is based on a true story from the author's own family history. Endpapers featuring clouds shaped like fish bookend this moving story. julie roach

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