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The Journey (book)

Creators: Sheila Hamanaka

A children's book by Sansei author and artist Sheila Hamanaka, published by Orchard Books in 1990. The Journey: Japanese Americans, Racism and Renewal is based on a 25-foot mural painted by Hamanaka that mixes the history of Japanese Americans with an emphasis on the American concentration camps of World War II with her own family's experience using a mixture of Japanese iconography, realism and caricature. The book features both close-ups of the mural as well as a panoramic view of all five panels, which are accompanied by the author's text, giving her perspective on history, tradition, and hope. It also includes a preface and afterword reflecting on these themes.

Author Hamanaka (b. 1949) is an artist who has both illustrated and written and illustrated numerous children's books. The Journey was her first book as an author. Most of her succeeding books tell stories of American ethnic groups and/or of Japan.

Reviewers uniformly praised Hamanaka's artwork and its presentation in the book. John Philbrook in School Library Journal calls the paintings "beautiful, bold, and moving, covering the public facts yet incorporating a personal touch in a cameo of the artist's siblings," while Kirkus Reviews refers to it as "a complex, elegantly orchestrated blend of realistic portraits, caricatures, and traditional symbols that recalls the social-protest art of the 30's." Publishers Weekly calls her "illustrations of historical details, the symbols from Japanese culture and especially the unforgettable faces are brilliantly executed." [1] While most reviewer also praised the text, calling it "prose of simple and unique power," "moving," and "compelling," Roger Sutton in The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books calls it "deliberately didactic" with text that "is a relentless condemnation, unfortunately weakened by undocumented controversial statements, ... overstatement, ... and unexplained references...." Publishers Weekly calls the text "a confusing amalgam of history, art catalogue description and biography." [2]

School Library Journal named The Journey as one of its best books of 1990 and it won a Jane Addams Children's Book Award in 1991 and an American Book Award in 1992.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho


  1. John Philbrook, School Library Journal , May 1990, 117; Kirkus Reviews , Apr. 1, 1990, 499, accessed on June 29, 2015 at ; and Publishers Weekly , Feb. 9, 1990, 64.
  2. Philbrook, School Library Journal , 117; Trevelyn Jones and Luann Toth, "Best Books of 1990," School Library Journal , Dec. 1990, 22; Lee Galda, and Susan Cox, "Books for Cross-Cultural Understanding." The Reading Teacher , Apr. 1991, 585; Roger Sutton, The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books , March 1990, 162; and Publishers Weekly , Feb. 9, 1990, 64.
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Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration

The Journey

This item has been made freely available in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration , a collaborative project with Internet Archive .

Might also like: Home of the Brave by Allen Say; So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting; A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai

Media Details
Author Sheila Hamanaka
Pages 39
Publication Date 1990
Awards Best Books of 1990, <i>School Library Journal</i>
For More Information

For More Information

American Book Award website: .

Harada, Violet H. "Breaking the Silence: Sharing the Japanese American Internment Experience with Adolescent Readers." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 39.8 (May 1996): 630–37.

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.

Kay E. Vandergrift, "A Feminist Perspective on Multicultural Children's Literature in the Middle Years of the Twentieth Century," Library Trends 41.3 (Winter 1993): 354–77.



Galda, Lee, and Susan Cox. "Books for Cross-Cultural Understanding." The Reading Teacher , Apr. 1991, 580–87. ["… a compelling examination of the history of the Japanese people in the United States."]

Jones, Trevelyn, and Luann Toth. "Best Books of 1990." School Library Journal , Dec. 1990, 22. ["It's a moving personal testimony that results in an affirmation of life, told with dignity and without rancor."]

Kirkus Reviews , Apr. 1, 1990, 499. ["This handsome book is not only an excellent introduction to an important, too little known chapter of American history, but a fine lesson in looking at the details and iconography of a work of art."]

Pang, Valerie Ooka, and Carolyn Colvin. "Struggle and Survival," The International Examiner Children's Literary Supplement , Sept. 4, 1991, 8.

Philbrook, John. School Library Journal , May 1990, 117. ["There are other books on this subject… but none with the punch and universality of this one."]

Polese, Carolyn. "War Through Children's Eyes." School Library Journal , Apr. 1991, 43–44.

Publishers Weekly , Feb. 9, 1990, 64. ["Though flawed, the work is a dramatic and visually arresting exploration of an important topic."]

Rochman, Hazel. "The Asian American Experience: Nonfiction." Booklist , Nov. 1, 1992, 502–03. ["Her story is one of prejudice and fierce injustice, personal and official, and she is passionate about what happened to her people."]

Sutton, Roger. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books , Mar, 1990, 162. ["While the scenes depicted should not be forgotten, this largely lacks the individual vision that truly lead a reader/viewer to informed empathy, though it is a useful, sometimes striking, introduction to a terrible time."]