Gaijin by Matt Faulkner Book Review

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: April 5, 2014

Koji Miyamoto has a white mother and a Japanese father. When Pearl Harbor is attacked Koji finds himself being forced into an internment camp. His mother joins him, despite being a white American citizen. Once they are taken to the internment camp, Koji learns that being half white at the camp is just as bad as being half Japanese on the streets of California. Based on true events, Koji's story is one of sadness, where fear made people prisoners of war in their own country.

Through the years I have read a number of stories in regards to the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Personally, I enjoy the ones based on true stories because of the authenticity value. I don't have anything against historical fiction because I believe it does have a place within literature, but fiction and fact are different. This one blends the two. Matt Faulkner, at the end of the story, tells us about his family and their time at the camps. Interestingly enough, Faulkner chooses to tell a story that is similar to his families', but fictional as well. This is an interesting choice, but in no way does it detract from the power of the story and its emotional depth. Even though the setting may be outside the experience of young readers, I think that Faulkner does a great job with the characterization so that any child who has dealt with bullying or peer pressure is sure to understand on some level. My only real criticism of the story was that the camps, although shown as not being pleasant places to stay, were also not shown to be as awful as many of the other autobiographies I have read. This could have simply been because Faulkner's illustrations were so vibrant, that it was impossible to make anything look too terrible.

The story isn't the real gem here though. That would be the illustrations. Using watercolor and gouache, each image leaps off the page, vibrant and true.