Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ellen Halperin Reads: "The Bracelet"

THE BRACELET by Yoshiko Uchida,  illustrated by Joanna Yardley

A 7-year-old girl, Emi, and her Japanese-American family, are about to be interned at the beginning of World War II.  Just before they leave, Emi's  best friend Laurie Madison gives her a bracelet to take to camp.  The story  describes the family packing and leaving, and the filthy stables where they were housed at first.  Emi loses her bracelet. However, just as she had with her room and her house, closing her eyes and picturing them, she finds she is still able to remember her friend. In the same way. she can remember her father (who had been sent to another camp) without his photograph.  It’s a very real story with good illustrations.

It highlights the themes of the injustice done to people because of their national origin and how they looked, and quietly portrays the horror of losing your home, your school, your friends, even your father. 
Ellen read this book to fourth graders in Cabot. Before the reading, she asked the children if they’d heard of World War II. Pearl Harbor? She told the students that after the attack, the U.S went to war with Japan in the Pacific and also with Germany and Italy in Europe. Vocabulary introduced included: internment, barracks, and descent (as in Japanese descent). Ellen says, "Sharing this information seems important, too: 120,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, most of whom were American citizens, were interned.  50,000 Japanese-Americans fought as members of the U.S  Army in Europe.  Not one Japanese-American was ever proven disloyal to the U.S.  And, in the late 1980’s. the U.S. government formally apologized to Japanese-Americans and admitted that what we did was wrong."

Discussion questions included: Do you think it's fair that Japanese Americans were treated this way?  Do you think it’s fair to lock up people when they’ve not even been accused of a crime? If this happened to you, what would you never forget? Ellen says, "I asked if any of the kids have German or Italian ancestors and wondered: why didn’t we lock up German and Italian Americans?"

Activities Ellen did in Cabot were:  Make a list of what you would take with you. It has to fit in 2 small suitcases, and no electronic devices!  Also, students could write a letter from the camp to their best friend back home telling him/her what their life is like there and what they’re feeling.  Caveat:  The children were visibly moved by this story, as was the reader.

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