Tomi was born in Hawaii. His grandfather and parents were born in Japan, and came to America to escape poverty.
World War II seems far away from Tomi and his friends, who are too busy playing ball on their eighth-grade team, the Rats.
But then Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese, and the United States declares war on Japan. Japanese men are rounded up, and Tomi’s father and grandfather are arrested. It’s a terrifying time to be Japanese in America. But one thing doesn’t change: the loyalty of Tomi’s buddies, the Rats.
Salisbury (Blue Skin of the Sea) again invokes a Hawaiian setting for this novel, which chronicles the trials of a Japanese American boy and his immigrant family in 1941. Tomi's fisherman father and housekeeper mother work hard to support Tomi, his younger sister and grandfather in their cramped servants' house. While he embraces everything about being American, including a passion for baseball, Tomi struggles to find some middle ground between his modern life and the nationalism and traditional values his parents and Grandpa try to impart. But as WWII intensifies and Pearl Harbor is bombed, Tomi's family faces racism, violence and hardship at every turn. Tomi's father and grandfather are taken away and incarcerated, leaving Tomi to worry if he can perform honorably as man of the house. Salisbury skillfully describes Tomi's emotional highs and lows, and has a particular knack for realistically portraying the camaraderie and dialogue between boyhood chums. The slow-evolving plot drags in a few spots (especially the play-by-play descriptions of baseball games), but readers are rewarded with steadily building dramatic tension in the novel's second half and a satisfyingly open-ended finale. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)