Lucky Ears: The True Story of Ben Kuroki, World War II Hero (book)
Creators: Jean A Lukesh
Book cover. Courtesy of Field Mouse Productions
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Lucky Ears consists of twenty-two short chapters. The first eight cover Ben's early life growing up on a family farm outside Hershey, Nebraska, as the sixth of ten children. The next eleven cover the war years: Ben and his brother Fred's efforts to join the army and their struggles against racism to remain in and to be given meaningful duty; Ben finally being allowed to become a gunner and surviving thirty missions over Europe and a stint as a POW without a scratch; his return to the U.S. and his brush with celebrity, and his 28 further missions over Japan. The last three chapters cover his postwar life, much of it on the awards and honors bestowed on him later in life. Ben's wartime visits to the Japanese American concentration camps between his Europe and Japan duties is briefly covered, noting the mixed response he received from his fellow Japanese Americans and his own ambivalence about this duty.
The book finished with a glossary, select bibliography, thinking questions, index and acknowledgements. The title comes from a story told to Ben as a child by his parents: that his unusually shaped ears were a predictor of good luck and long life, something that seemed to come true for Ben.
Author Jean Lukesh is a school library and educator, who with her husband Ronald E. Lukesh, started Field Mouse Productions in the 2000s. Seeing the need for an updated Nebraska history textbook for 4th graders, Lukesh authored The Nebraska Adventure (2004–05), which has subsequently been adopted by most Nebraska schools. Wanting to write a series of youth biographies on Nebraska heroes, she decided to start with Kuroki, whose story is noted in The Nebraska Adventure . When Kurkoki returned to Nebraska for the premiere of the documentary film about him, Most Honorable Son , in 2007, Lukesh was able to interview him and based the book on the interview and on secondary sources. She has since written four more books in the "Noteworthy Americans Young Readers Biography Book" series as well as four others.
The book includes one significant historical error: in noting Ben's postwar matriculation at the University of Nebraska, Lukesh writes that that school was "one of only three colleges in the country to accept Japanese Americans from the internment camps as students in those days." (page 105) While many colleges did not allow Japanese Americans to enroll during World War II, hundreds did allow Japanese American students. Largely through the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council , some 4,000 student left the concentration camps to attend more than 600 colleges during the war.
Might also like Heroes by Ken Mochizuki; Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury; The Japanese Internment Camps: A History Perspectives Book by Rachel A. Bailey