by Kathryn Fitzmaurice, published 2012
“Gila River was where I would turn thirteen, and live with my mama and my sister, while waiting for my papa to be brought bak from Fort Lincoln, North Dakota, where the FBI had sent him…”
This historical fiction children’s book adds yet another new piece of history and humanness to the story of the internment of Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor was attacked. In this particular account, the bad conditions of the internment camp serves as a backdrop to a heart-warming story of a young boy learning some painful lessons about responsibility and compassion. In addition, the love of baseball is the main narrative through which we meet the various characters.
I’m always interested in a good historical fiction children’s book because it gives me better insight into the past, while making history come alive through real and invented characters. In this particular book, the incidents involving the baseball team, as well as other anecdotes, are factual, though the characters have been freely constructed. Yet each character comes across as quite real, and very likable. I especially liked the younger sister of the main character, and felt a great sweetness in her portrayal.
As with all historical fiction, it’s not always clear what is true and what is not, even when it is based on real historical events. However, in this case, in many ways, it’s completely irrelevant, as the drama of the young boy is so well crafted, it doesn’t really make a difference if it’s true or not. I found the simplicity of the writing, in first person, also a nice way to enter the history being presented.