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Historical Fiction

Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham Salisbury


Salisbury, Graham. Under the Blood Red Sun. 1994. New York, New York: Random House, Inc. ISBN 0-440-41139-4


In 1941, Tomikazu Nakaji is a young, first generation American citizen of Japanese heritage living in Hawaii. He lives with his grandfather, father, mother, young sister and his loyal dog, Lucky. His family escapes poverty facing them in Japan, and struggle with their own poverty in America. Tomi loves baseball and hanging out with his friends, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor that Tomi witnesses changes many things about his daily life, including the arrest of his two father figures, his father and grandfather, as suspicions about Japanese people grows.


Under the Blood Red Sun tells the heartbreaking story of Tomikazu Nakaji, a Japanese American who lives in Hawaii with his family, when the infamous December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor happens. Author Graham Salisbury recalls his experiences growing up in Hawaii during the attack, and uses this as the catalyst for this book. The author runs through a list of characters who live in Hawaii, native Hawaiians, Japanese, American and other mixed cultures as well. Salisbury takes the time to help readers understand the protagonist first, a young poor boy living with his family who is in love with baseball. Later, we see this protagonist learn to bridge the gap between his boyhood and adulthood, as all of the males in his family are taken away from him. Under the Blood Red Sun displays a “coming of age” theme as Tomi still lives his boyhood, playing baseball and spending time with his friends, while also helping to care for his family which is so desperately in need of food and other necessities.

d. REVIEWS from Southern Tier Library System:$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f309$002fSD_ILS:309916/ada;jsessionid=F5B6C8248120FC4ADC8DC4DF7C5C53C8?qu=Bombings+–+Fiction.&lm=NONEWS&dt=list&ps=300

For older readers, this powerful novel (winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editors’ Choice) tells the story from the point of view of eighth-grader Tomi, born in Hawaii of Japanese parents. After the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Tomi’s father is eventually deported to a U.S. prison camp. With considerable empathy, Salisbury reveals the suspicions of the Americans and the bewilderment of the immigrants who suddenly become the personification of the enemy. – Booklist

Torn between his love of all things American and the traditional ways of his parents and grandparents, a young Japanese American comes of age during the political upheaval of WWII. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved – Publisher’s Weekly Review

Reading Review:

Graham Salisbury is an excellent storyteller who must really read up on his history text to be able to write such a convincing story. The story seams so real and the reader gets totally immersed in the action. Overall, I absolutely loved this story and the characters in it.

This book should be read by everybody, not just young readers. Fantastic! Under the Blood-Red Sun is a top-notch book. I rated this book a 10 out of 10. – Reading Review


Awards won:
From the Graham Salisbury website:


1994 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction

2014 Phoenix Award Honor Book

1999 California Young Reader Medal

1998 Nene Award (Hawaii Young Reader’s Choice)

1998 Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee

Teacher’s Choice for 1995, International Reading Association

1995 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association

Library of Congress 1995 Notable Children’s Book of the Year

1994 Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association

Related books: House of the Red Fish by Graham Salisbury, Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury


Under the Blood Red Study Guide by Conflict Resolution Academy, LLC:

Random House Teacher’s Guide:

Multnomah County Library Lesson Plan ideas:


Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin


Yelchin, Eugene. Breaking Stalin’s Nose. Ill. By Eugene Yelchin. 2011. New York, New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-0-8050-9216-5


Sasha Zaichik is ten years old and living in Moscow, and wants nothing more than to become a loyal member of the “Young Soviet Pioneers,” and to declare his loyalty to the communist party. But just before he is about to be initiated, Sasha’s father is arrested and he undergoes a series of adventures which forces Sasha to question everything that he has ever known to be true.


In Breaking Stalin’s Nose, author Eugene Yelchin’s first novel gives us a look at life in Soviet Russia under the Communist Joseph Stalin’s rule. This book displays a young boy’s life under a strict dictatorship, one which involves an immense devotion to Stalin, given willingly by the people who are surrounded by messages of complete allegiance to him.  Everything in the lives in the characters revolves around Stalin and loyalty to him, and young Sasha Zaichik is unfalteringly devoted to the Communist Party. The style of the writing is easy to understand, and makes a great book for young readers to read though its 154 pages. Black and white illustrations reflect the story and display the characters in a dark yet cartoon-like image, reinforcing the interest for young readers. Characters in this book stay devoted to historical fiction character requirements, with the exception of a “talking nose” which may have occurred during Sasha’s unconsciousness.

d. REVIEWS from MacMillan publishers:

“Mr. Yelchin has compressed into two days of events an entire epoch, giving young readers a glimpse of the precariousness of life in a capricious yet ever-watchful totalitarian state.” – Wall Street Journal

A miracle of brevity, this affecting novel zeroes in on two days and one boy to personalize Stalin’s killing machine of the ‘30s. …black and white drawings march across the page to juxtapose hope and fear, truth and tyranny, small moments and historical forces, innocence and evil. This Newbery Honor book offers timeless lessons about dictatorship, disillusionment and personal choice.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Picture book author/illustrator Yelchin (Won Ton) makes an impressive middle-grade debut with this compact novel about a devoted young Communist Stain-era Russia, illustrated with dramatically lit spot art.” – Publisher’s Weekly


Awards won:

2012 Newbery Honor Book

Horn’s Book’s Best Fiction Book of 2011

Related books: Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis


The Classroom Bookshelf:

Eugene Yelchin’s Breaking Stalin’s Nose website with images, videos, and author commentary:

MacMillian Discussion Guide:

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia


Williams-Garcia, Rita. One Crazy Summer. 2010.  New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 974-0-06-076088-5 & ISBN 978-0-06-076089-2


It’s 1968, and three sisters, Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are sent by their father to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile, who has abandoned them years ago. The sisters are dreaming about their California adventures and plan to visit Disneyland, when their mother crushes their summer plans by taking their money and neglecting them. Instead, Cecile spends time with her friends and writes poetry during the day, so Dalphine does her best to care for her sisters, while also embarking on a journey that will change her life.


Rita Williams-Garcia’s historical fiction book, One Crazy Summer, takes readers on a journey in 1960’s California at the heart of the Civil Rights movement, by introducing readers to three young sisters who experience the Black Panther movement firsthand. This book’s style makes for a great young adult novel, especially for young African American girls as we learn the story from the view of the protagonist, the eldest sister, 11 year old Dalphnie. Author Williams-Garcia also enlightens readers with the girl’s experiences of being African American during a pivotal time for civil rights in America. A theme of strong sibling bonds and absent parents also underlines the story during this important time in American history.

d. REVIEWS from the Rita Williams-Garcia website:

Author Rita Williams-Garcia has a fine ear for the squabbles and fierce loyalties of siblings and a keen eye for kid-centered period details, including collect phone calls, go-go boots and the TV dolphin Flipper. With authenticity and humor, she portrays the ever-shifting dynamics among ultra-responsible Delphine, show-off Vonetta and stubborn Fern. – Washington Post

Set during a pivotal moment in African American history, this vibrant novel shows the subtle ways that political movements affect personal lives; but just as memorable is the finely drawn, universal story of children reclaiming a reluctant parent’s love. – Booklist

In ONE CRAZY SUMMER, readers see the historical changes through the eyes of Delphine.  With humor, honesty, and innocence, Delphine comments on the events unfolding before her in the way only a child can.  Delphine is quite conscious of the differences between blacks and whites in society, yet she is also a girl who responds from her heart rather than from slogans or mandates from others.  Delphine is intelligent, taking the initiative to educate herself and to protect her sisters, yet she is still a little girl who longs for a mother to protect her.  In ONE CRAZY SUMMER, Delphine embarks on a journey that will change her forever, not only in the societal changes she witnesses but also a journey that will bring her closer to understanding her mother and herself. – Book Illuminations


Awards won: 2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winner

2011 Newbery Honor Book

2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction

2010 National Book Award Finalist

Junior Library Guild Selection

Texas Library Association Best Book for 2010

Related books: The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Cutris


Sweet on Books Lesson Plan:

Harper Collins Discussion Guide:

ALA Coretta Scott King Discussion Guide:

The Classroom Bookshelf Teacher’s Guide:


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This entry was posted on July 26, 2013 by .
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