Reviews for Diamond in the Desert

Booklist Reviews 2012 March #2
When 13-year-old Tetsu, his mother, and his sister are relocated to the Gila River Internment camp in 1942, he longs for baseball; his father, who has been detained by the FBI, and the family dog they had to board. He works with others to clear and build a baseball diamond and is scarcely able to contain his excitement at the first practice. Then, impatient with his younger sister Kimi's modesty in the very public latrines, he abandons her, and she runs away into the desert. When found, she is seriously ill, and Tetsu, convinced that his irresponsibility caused her illness, abandons baseball. Not so much sports story as historical fiction, the well-researched novel is packed with grim internment camp descriptions. Tetsu's restrained narration occasionally slips into an adult voice, but his feelings and frustrations ring true. A solid, affecting choice for multicultural and WWII studies, with resources for student research appended. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
In 1942, Japanese American boy Tetsu attempts to find dignity and purpose while living within the humiliating confines of the Gila River Relocation Center. Helping build a baseball field in the inhospitable desert provides some emotional relief; playing the game well further eases his anger. Informed by real-life memories of Gila River's baseball team, this novel delves deeply and affectingly into the human condition. Reading list, websites.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 December #1
In episodic bursts, a Nisei lad describes two and a half years of making do in a World War II–era relocation camp. Swept off his family's West Coast farm in the wake of Pearl Harbor and resettled along with thousands of other Japanese Americans in Arizona, 12-year-old Tetsu quietly waits with his mother and his beloved little sister, Kimi, for his father, who has been interned in another camp. At Gila River, he makes friends and enthusiastically pitches in to clear and construct a baseball field. When he accidentally allows Kimi to run off into the desert and she comes down with a severe case of Valley Fever, he drops off the team and even discards his treasured Mel Ott glove. Incorporating information and specific incidents drawn from interviews with former camp residents, Fitzmaurice has Tetsu describe his experiences and feelings in restrained vignettes threaded with poetic language--"Kimi looked at me with those eyes that always found the good part of things." The outlook does brighten at last after his father appears as the war winds down, and Tetsu picks up bat and glove again in time to compete against other camps' teams. A simply drawn picture of a shameful chapter in this country's race relations, sharing a theme with Ken Mochizuki's classic, angry Baseball Saved Us (1993) but less an indictment than a portrait of patience in adversity. (afterword, source list) (Historical fiction. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 December #2

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, 13-year-old Tetsu Kishi, his mother, and his younger sister, Kimi, are imprisoned along with other Japanese Americans in the Gila River Relocation Center in Rivers, Ariz., an internment camp. Tetsu's father, meanwhile, has been sent away for questioning. Based on actual events, Fitzmaurice's (The Year the Swallows Came Early) second novel spans three years, divided into seasons. The brief vignettes that compose each section detail the harsh climate and conditions: the latrine has no walls; there is initially no school; the food makes Tetsu ill; and scorpions, rattlesnakes, and dust devils are abundant. When Tetsu befriends some boys who share his love of baseball, they start a team and build a ball field, rekindling Tetsu's hope. But after Kimi falls ill, Tetsu is once again compelled to fill his father's shoes. Tetsu provides intimate first-person narration throughout, as Fitzmaurice captures the dismal circumstances and somber mood of the camp, but also the much-needed hope that baseball provided for a few of those who were forced to live there. Ages 10-up. Agent: Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Feb.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 February

Gr 5-7--Based on actual events and narrated by 12-year-old Tetsu, this story paints an effective picture of the harsh reality of what life was like for thousands of Japanese Americans who were moved to relocation centers after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The chapters are delineated by place and time, grounding readers in Tetsu's journey and are broken down into short sections, some only a paragraph or two in length, affording a manageable way in which to digest the information. From the opening pages, in which readers learn that Tetsu's eight-year-old sister, Kimi, refuses to use the open-stall bathrooms at the relocation center unless a pillowcase is over her head, blocking out sights and sounds, to Tetsu's adjustment as man of the house after his father's arrest, readers are immersed in the dusty, barren world of The Gila River Relocation Center, Rivers, AZ. Hope appears with new neighbors Kyo, Ben, and their father, all of whom share Tetsu's passion for baseball, and they are soon engaged in a project to build a diamond in the desert. A team is assembled, and the author interweaves the spirit and familiarity the game brings with the grim reality of the life of the interned, culminating in Kimi's disappearance and recovery and the Gila River baseball team's win of the Arizona State Championship. Moving the story forward with fluid language and vivid imagery, Fitzmaurice hits home with this important piece of historical fiction.--Mary Beth Rassulo, Ridgefield Library, CT

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