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The Children of Topaz: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Camp (book)

Creators: Michael O. Tunnell, George W. Chilcoat

Children's book by Michael O. Tunnell and George W. Chilcoat based on a class diary kept by a 3rd grade teacher at Topaz .


After a short introduction that provides background on the mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans, the diary begins on March 8, 1943 and ends on August 12, 1943, the last day of summer school. The various entries touch on many aspects of life in the concentration camps, ranging from living conditions, recreation, loyalty and military service, and even the killing of Issei inmate James Hatsuki Wakasa and its aftermath. Also noted is the infamous " loyalty questionnaire ," which comes to affect the class directly when Miss Yamauchi leaves camp at the end of the school year to accompany her family to Tule Lake . On a happier note, the class also follows Miss Yamauchi's engagement and marriage during the term, even voting to keep calling her "Miss Yamauchi" rather than "Mrs. Hori." An afterword covers the closing of Topaz, along with the redress movement many years later. In addition to the images of the diary pages, the book is illustrated with general photographs of Topaz, as well as images of Miss Yamauchi and the class itself.

Additional Information

A professor of children's literature at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, and author of three prior children's books, Tunnell came across the class diary of Lillian "Anne" Yamauchi Hori at the Utah State Historical Society. The diary covered the spring and summer sessions of 1943 and captured the observations of the children as transcribed by their teacher, Miss Yamauchi. Each day's entry was illustrated by a member of the class. Tunnell and co-author Chilcoat, also a BYU professor, selected twenty of the daily entries, reproducing them in the book and adding their own annotations and explanations of the things mentioned by the children. They also tracked down Saburo Hori, the teacher's widower (she had passed away in 1993) and several of the children in the class who provided additional information.

Upon the book's publication, several other students contacted the authors, which led to a 1996 reunion of the class held in Berkeley that saw 15 out of the 23 students attend.

The book is well researched and has only a few minor errors. Among them: implying that Japanese Americans from all of Washington and Oregon were forcibly removed (those in the eastern halves of those states were spared) and not noting the forced removal of Japanese Americans from southern Arizona (page 7); claiming bank accounts for all Japanese Americans had been frozen (only those of the Issei were frozen) (42); overestimating the number of Japanese American women who served in the Women's Army Corps (45); misidentifying the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (69); and claiming that $100 million was paid out under the auspices of the Evacuation Claims Act (the total was closer to $38 million) (69).

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho
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Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration

Media Details
Author Michael O. Tunnell, George W. Chilcoat
Pages 74
Publication Date 1996
Awards Parents' Choice Award, 1996
For More Information

For More Information

Inagawa, Machiko. "Japanese American Experiences in Internment Camps during World War II as Represented by Children's and Adolescent Literature." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Arizona, 2007.

"Michael O. Tunnell." Contemporary Authors Online . Detroit: Gale, 2009.



Bush, Elizabeth. Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books , Oct. 1997, 69.

Kirkus Reviews , Apr. 1, 1996.

Nix, Kemie. Parents Choice Awards , 1996 Story Books.

Philbrook, John. School Library Journal , Aug. 1996, 161–62.

Rochman, Hazel. Booklist , July 1996, 1818.