Title: The Lucky Baseball: My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp
Author: Suzanne Lieurance
Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
ISBN: 13: 978-0-7660-3311-5
Reviewed by: Karen Cioffi
The Lucky Baseball brings WWII history to life in an engaging and enlightening middle-grade story.
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack shocked Americans and a deep fear that Japan would launch a full scale attack on American home land grew. President Franklin Roosevelt immediately entered the United States into WWII.
Out of the growing fear, bordering on hysteria, that the American borders were at risk, in February 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. The Lucky Baseball is a fictional account, through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, of what Executive Order 9066 meant for Japanese-Americans.
Harry Yakamoto was an average American boy: he had friends, went to school, and loved baseball. Only, he was of Japanese descent. Living in California during the 1940s, people were prejudice against the Japanese – just for prejudice’s sake. So, the ‘real’ American boys wouldn’t let Harry or his best friend play on their baseball teams.
Then, Japan attacked the United States. Japanese and people of Japanese descent were ordered to leave their homes, businesses, and all belongings, except what they could carry. They were moved to internment camps for their protection, so they were told. But, the camps were fenced in and had military guards to keep the Japanese from leaving.
These camps became Harry’s, and many other Japanese-Americans, new home for three years. And, The Lucky Baseball, through a descriptive and engaging story, tells of the living conditions, personal losses, and unconscionable treatment endured by Harry, his family, his friends, and others.
But, amidst the hardship, baseball became a favorite past time for the children, boys and girls alike. While at home, Harry couldn’t be on a baseball team, but in the camp he was the Captain of a team. Ball playing provided a tidbit of normalcy in an otherwise unnatural environment.
Suzanne Lieurance brings the 1940s to the reader. She allows children to feel, see, smell, hear, and even taste the conditions within the internment camps. “I forced myself to climb out from under the warm covers. I wiped a layer of sandy dirt from my face with the back of my hand. My bed was covered with a layer of this dirt, too. In fact, the whole room was dusted with a mixture of dirt and sand, white as flour.”
Another passage describes the intolerable cold that the refugees had to endure, “She [the grandmother] wrapped up in one more of the army blankets. We were both wearing our winter coats. She shivered.” That was a description of the conditions inside the housing units, which consisted of individual barracks, each divided into six units/rooms with half-fast partitions separating families.
The author also shows the human spirit and its ability to survive and prosper.
I am a huge fan of historical fiction adventures for children. It’s the perfect way to bring history to children in a format that they will find interesting, entertaining, and informative. Lieurance, focusing on baseball and a boy growing up, did a wonderful job doing this with The Lucky Baseball.
Along with a wonderful and very informative story, the author includes “The Real History Behind the Story” at the end of the book. It’s full of facts about WWII, Executive Order 9066, the camps, and baseball in regard to the Japanese-Americans.
You can get you copy of The Lucky Baseball through the link below!
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