As the only Japanese girl in her class, Sumiko knew what being lonely felt like. Still, she was usually satisfied to work on her uncle’s flower farm and attend school. Then, she was invited to a birthday party! Sadly, once she got there, the birthday girl’s mother asked her to leave, because she was Japanese. This incident presents the rest of the book’s plot in microcosm: after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Sumiko’s family is split up and her uncle and grandfather are sent to prison camp, while her aunt, cousins, brother and herself are interned.
Weedflower was my first audiobook ever, and I suspect that has affected my opinion of it. Simply put, it did not blow me away, but I really liked it. It got off to a slow start, but the pace quickly picked up, and I found myself caring very much what happened to Sumiko and her family. I think Kadohata’s greatest achievement with this book is presenting a huge historic event from a girl’s perspective. What this means is that we get a limited awareness of what’s going on in the outside world; Sumiko only knows what’s going on to the extent that it affects her life directly. A lot of historical fiction falls prey to its larger context, losing the personal in the grand saga of history, and educating readers in such a way that the narrator/protagonist seems to know a lot of things she really shouldn’t. Kadohata deftly avoids this trap, but still presents a picture of life in the middle of World War II that makes us aware of what was going on.
I would recommend Weedflower to readers who enjoy historical fiction, especially about World War II, or anyone looking for a good story about how a girl grows up. I will warn you, though, that it is not a cheerful tale.
Book: Weedflower (Affiliate Link)
Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Original Publication Date: 2006
Age Range: Young Adult
Source of Book: Library [Audiobook]
Other Blog Reviews: Fairrosa’s Reading Journal, propernoun.net, A Fuse #8 Production, MotherReader, Jen Robinson’s Book Page