by Andrew Palmer
Sadly, kids and young adults rarely get excited about history. Part of the reason is because history is often not taught to them in a way that engages them. It often comes off as a collection of meaningless dates and facts. As many of us know, history is usually filled with fascinating, engaging stories that illustrate the reality of human nature. I have often found that historical fiction is a way to get a kid to read something on history. David Patneaude should be applauded for his effort with this book. It is an example of what historical fiction can and should be.
Thin Wood Walls tells the story of a Japanese-American family before and during America’s involvement in World War II. The story is told in the first-person narrative of Joe Hanada, the youngest of two sons in the Hanada family. Joe starts out the story as a normal eleven-year-old kid living in a town near Seattle, Washington. The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and suddenly his family is at the center of scorn of an entire nation.
A couple things stood out to me in this book. First, I loved the fact that it tells the truth about this ugly period of American history. The fact is, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the beloved progressive Democrat, through Executive Order and no congressional approval, tossed 120,000 Japanese-Americans into concentration camps in the Mountain West. The first-person narrative really drives the point home of how cruel this was. You really get angry reading this as this young person tells his perspective of what is happening to him and to his family. Not only does this family get put in a camp, but the father is sent to another camp away from his family for three years!
Second, whether intentional or not*, I love the theme of being fearful of your government. Joe’s Grandmother has no love for governments. She left Japan because of the government, and as events unfold, she has no faith that the American government can or should be trusted either. It seems to me that many young adults in America are being conditioned to have way too much trust in their government. This book shows just how dangerous governments can be. They are ran by human beings, and human beings can be quite fallible. Our constitution was designed to actually protect us from the government. FDR and other progressives violated the constitution and trampled the civil liberties of these American citizens during this period of American history.
Thin Wood Walls is appropriate for kids as young as upper elementary. The younger reader may need a little background on the subject matter of the text, but I think they could handle the book quite well.
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*By all appearances, the author of this book is not a conservative. You can check out his blog on the second amendment where he demonstrates he has absolutely no clue what he is talking about. Guns are a plague, and our founding fathers had many inappropriate ideas, and the second amendment has something to do with muskets. Oh, brother…. He also gave Rachel Maddow’s book 4-stars on Goodreads. I debated not putting this review up, but I decided against it. This book is a good read. It has its place in the young adult library. Unlike many on the left, we know our history.