Saturday, November 20, 2010


THE FENCES BETWEEN US by Kirby Larson is a new book in the Dear America series.  Having already read Larson's HATTIE BIG SKY, I knew she would handle the historical subject matter in a way that would make the reader feel part of the past.  I wasn't disappointed.

Piper Davis lives in Seattle, Washington.  It is 1941, and her older brother has just enlisted in the Navy.  The worst thing she can imagine happens when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.  Her brother was one of the few lucky survivors from the USS Arizona.  In fact, his heroic actions also saved a friend and fellow crew member.

With her brother still on active duty but safe, Piper focuses on how her life at home is changing because of the war.  Her older sister had been enrolled at the university, but she drops out to go to work in a factory to support the troops.  Residents of Seattle feel the effects of the war as they prepare for "black outs" in case of enemy attacks, plant victory gardens in their backyards, and "do without" as rationing begins. 

Piper's father is dealing with another change brought on by the war.  He is the pastor of the Japanese Baptist church.  Fear and prejudice quickly spread creating hard feelings and hate.  When the government decides that moving the Japanese to incarceration camps is the way to handle the situation, Pastor Davis fights to keep his congregation together.  When he realizes the fight is over and his church members must be relocated, he decides to take Piper and follow them.

Piper hates leaving her sister, her friends, and her school, but what choice does she have.  She and her father move into a rented house near the internment camp.  The Japanese children she has grown up with are forced to live with their families in horrible conditions, but as Piper visits them and eventually begins to attend school at the camp, she is amazed at the resilient attitude of these proud people.  They are determined to survive and even thrive despite the fact that the country they call home has turned its back on them.

Kirby Larson describes the living conditions and treatment of the Japanese in vivid detail.  Using the experiences of an actual Baptist pastor who continued to serve his loyal church members, she keeps true to the historical facts surrounding the incarceration of tens of thousands of Japanese held near Eden and Twin Falls, Idaho.  She explains that as the war raged on in Europe and the Pacific, another battle was waged right here on American soil. 


Kirby Larson said...

Thank you for this lovely endorsement of Piper's story! One of the things I'm most excited about is Scholastic's partnership with the Library of Congress so be sure to check out the website for WWII photos and documents.

And thank you, too, for teaching for 33 years. That's amazing and wonderful!



Readingjunky said...

It was a pleasure reading about Piper. I'm excited to share it with my students.