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Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky (book)

Creators: Sandra Dallas

image
Book cover. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Children's novel aimed at ages 8 to 11 by Sandra Dallas centering on the wartime incarceration experience of the Itano family at the Tallgrass, Colorado, camp, featuring as its protagonist twelve year old Tomi Itano. The book is a sequel of sorts to Dallas' adult novel, Tallgrass (2007).

Prior to the war, Tomi lives with her highly Americanized Issei parents Sam and Sumiko, along with her older brother Roy and younger brother Hiro. The family grows strawberries on a Southern California farm rented from the kindly Lawrence family, whose daughter Martha is Tomi's best friend. But after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sam is taken away by FBI agents and then the family is forcibly removed to Santa Anita and then to "Tallgrass," a fictional camp in Colorado that is based on Amache . Tomi and her new friend Ruth make the best of things at Tallgrass, and come up with creative solutions for the problems of friends and neighbors. Liberated from housework—and from an Issei husband—Sumiko becomes more assertive and even begins teaching a quilting class. But the relative calm is shattered when an embittered Sam returns to the family. Once an avowed patriot, he is angered by his treatment and bitter about the limitations of camp life, a attitude that begins to rub off on Tomi, as she becomes estranged from friends and sees her schoolwork start to lapse. Will their incarceration defeat Tomi and her family?

Author Sandra Dallas (1939– ) learned of the camps in the 1960s, when she visited the Amache site while pheasant hunting. Further research led her to discover that one of journalism classes at the University of Denver was held in a building that had once been a part of Amache. After graduating, she worked for twenty-five years as a staff member—and first female bureau chief—for Business Week magazine, covering the Rocky Mountain area. She then turned to writing fiction and has published thirteen novels, two non-fiction books, and two children's books. Many of her books incorporate the history of the West, and many, including Red Berries , include a quilting subplot. While her earlier camp themed novel Tallgrass focused on a white teenager and her family in a neighboring town, Dallas chose to feature a Nisei protagonist in Red Berries . A few of the characters from the earlier novel make brief appearances in Red Berries .

Red Berries was one of three finalists for the 2015 Colorado Book Awards in the Juvenile Literature category.

Red Berries does include a number of historical inaccuracies/implausibilities. Two characters Tomi meets in Tallgrass, Ruth and Helen, are from San Francisco; however, nearly all Japanese Americans from San Francisco went to the Topaz , Utah, camp. Santa Anita is described as having inmates housed in tents in the infield; in reality wooden barracks in the infield housed inmates. Tallgrass is described as having wood floors; the real life Amache was the only camp to have brick floors. After being interned in a New Mexico camp, Tomi's father is transferred to an enemy alien internment camp in California; however there were no such camps in California. Two Nisei soldiers from Tallgrass who had been wounded and discharged marched in a July 4, 1944 parade; however Nisei who volunteered for the army from the concentration camps didn't see combat until May of 1944 and thus could not have discharged so quickly. Finally, Colorado Governor Ralph Carr , whom Japanese Americans admired for his relatively tolerant attitudes towards them, is depicted as still being governor at war's end in 1945; in reality, he was voted out of office in 1942.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai; The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida; Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

Media Details
Author Sandra Dallas
Pages 237
Publication Date 2014
Awards Finalist, Colorado Book Awards, Juvenile Literature category, 2015
Reviews

Reviews

Colson, Diane. Booklist , Aug. 1, 2014, 74. ["The result is a realistic portrayal of the internment camps, brightened by the determination of one girl to remain true to her optimistic spirit."]

Davis, Tiffany. School Library Journal , Sept. 2014, 118. ["Dallas makes an important time in American history accessible to middle grade readers with this novel that illuminates a time of discrimination while promoting a message of perseverance and tolerance."]

Findlay, Lisa Catherine. The Horn Book Guide 26.1 (2015): 74.

Kirkus Reviews , Sept. 1, 2014. ["Nearly unvarying subject/predicate sentence structure, uninspired dialogue and periodic infodumps—most of which feels as if written for a very young audience—serve to diminish the attractiveness of the presentation."[

Publishers Weekly , Oct. 6, 2014, 70. ["... takes an honest look at a painful chapter in U.S. history, forthrightly depicting the injustices faced by thousands of people of Japanese descent during WWII."]