The Fences Between Us

fences(Dear America), by Kirby Larson

Author of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson has a wonderful knack for making history come alive.  This book, the first new Dear America title in five years, comes in the form of the diary of a fictional seventh-grader named Piper Davis, who lived in Seattle in 1941.

Piper seems very real, with a best friend and a boy she likes, though she worries about her big brother, who enlisted in the Navy just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Suddenly the Japanese American kids at her school, and their families, are forced to leave their homes and move to camps. When her father, who is pastor for a Japanese Baptist Church, tells her they are moving to Idaho to be near his congregation, she hates him. How could he destroy her life?  Yet she grows to understand just whose lives are being destroyed.

This is a topic close to my heart because my good friend, Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, an American citizen, was incarcerated by the U.S. government at the age of 17. It's a tough subject to deal with, and Kirby does it beautifully. She deals with tender and painful subjects in a sensitive and thoughtful way. I hope lots of American kids read this book and never forget.

Kirby Larson's website is