The Children of Topaz: The Story of a Japanese-American Internment Camp: Based on a Classroom Diary

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9780823412396: The Children of Topaz: The Story of a Japanese-American Internment Camp: Based on a Classroom Diary

The diary of a third-grade class of Japanese-American children being held with their families in an internment camp during World War II.

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About the Author:

Michael O. Tunnell is the author of several picture books, including the award-winning Mailing May, and of nonfiction works and novels for middle-grade readers. A professor of children's literature at Brigham Young University, Tunnell thoroughly knows the terrain of which he writes, yet when he came to creating his own stories and novels, it was as if he were in uncharted territory. "I discovered critiquing someone else's work is an entirely different process than creating your own stories," Tunnell once told Something about the Author (SATA). "Perhaps I was simply too close to my own work, which made applying what I thought I knew about quality literature difficult. In any case, I had a lot to learn (and the learning has just begun!) about the creative process. I guess writers are born perhaps more than they are made. (I feel the same way about teachers.) So, part of the challenge has been to find and cultivate any spark of literary creativity with which I might have been blessed." Born in Texas, Tunnell was raised in Canada by his grandparents, and his love affair with books started at a young age. "My grandmother . . . would read to me every day," the author recalled. "Fairy tales, comic books, and wonderful picture books like Caps for Sale and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. I soon discovered that books were the world's best teachers and entertainers. I grew up wanting to spend my life working with books." He was at college studying for a career in law when he rediscovered this early commitment. Working part-time for an automobile dealer in Salt Lake City, Utah, he was sent to deliver a car to a customer at a nearby elementary school. "The second I walked through the school doors, I was flooded with the strangest feelings. I remembered my favorite books and my magical childhood years. The next day I changed my major to education. Since then, I've completed several degrees, all relating to reading, children's literature, and teaching." A classroom teacher and media specialist for several years, Tunnell eventually wound up teaching children's literature at the university level. Whether he is writing a picture book, an information book, or a novel, Tunnell approaches each project with enthusiasm. As he once told SATA: "I enjoy trying my hand at the various genres and formats of literature. The economy required by the picture-book format makes that sort of writing a challenge. Naturally, nonfiction books demand careful attention to factual detail, but the biggest challenge is writing nonfiction with flair. . . . The novel, however, I find the most challenging. Writing novels requires sustained imaginative output unlike picture or informational books. Creating and developing believable characters who are doing things worth reading about for one hundred pages or more is difficult yet extremely fulfilling business."

George W. Chilcoat & Michael O. Tunnell was inspired to write a book based on the diary kept by Miss Yamauchi's third-grade class at the Topaz Relocation Center after seeing photocopies of the diary pages in the office of his colleague, George W. Chilcoat. George had visited the site of the Topaz camp and learned about the diary from a local high school teacher. The two men traced the original to the archives of the Utah State Historical Society, where they also discovered an archival photograph collection about Topaz. The diary was in near perfect condition, preserved in its cardboard and rice paper cover. Even the shoelace that had once bound the diary was there. Michael O. Tunnell is the author of three other children's books: "Chinook!", "The Joke's on George", and "Beauty and the Beastly Children". The authors are Associate Professors of Education at Brigham Young University. They live with their families in Orem, Utah.

From School Library Journal:

Grade 4-6?The authors have constructed their text around an actual classroom diary kept by American children of Japanese ancestry, unfairly and unconstitutionally remanded to prison camp during World War II. Selections of entries made by a third-grade class cover the period from March 8 to August 12, 1943. Under each date, the brief accounts are given, followed by extensive, well-researched commentaries explaining the children's allusions, expanding upon the diary text, and placing events in socio-historical perspective. The youngsters reveal a lively interest in the world around them and a patriotic support of the war effort. The commentary details the bleakness and cruelty of their situations and amazing loyalty in light of the injustices heaped upon their families by the U.S. government and their fellow citizens. The well-chosen illustrations consist of fine-quality period photographs, a layout of the camp, and black-and-white reproductions of the children's crayon artwork. The photos are often quite moving and bring home the experiences described in the text. Others have written first-hand accounts of the internment camps, largely reminiscences for children told from an adult perspective. Here readers are exposed to nine-year-olds writing as it happened?and are given a timely reminder for those who say, "It can't happen here." A vital purchase for all collections.?John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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