Age group: 10+
Baseball, babies, and best friends are just a few of the things 10-year-old Michiko discovers in this touching sequel to Jennifer Maruno’s 2009 debut, When the Cherry Blossoms Fell.
Picking up where the previous novel left off, Michiko and her family are living in a temporary settlement, having been exiled from their B.C. home as part of the unjust internment and relocation of more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.
Michiko’s parents prefer that she remain focused on “kid’s business,” so she often has difficulty understanding events around her until after the fact. This has the effect of making readers feel as though they are stumbling blindly along with her, though Maruno uses other means to relay important plot elements. For instance, we learn from Michiko’s all-knowing best friend, Kiko, that Michiko’s mother is pregnant, and that the government is forcing her family to relocate again.
Eventually, Michiko must decide if she’ll remain a bystander or become an active participant in her family’s struggles. A series of events – including the death of her grandfather, the discovery that Kiko has stolen a watch from their generous neighbour, and the news that her father has signed papers to relocate the family to Japan – prompt Michiko into action, helping facilitate her family’s move to Ontario (and setting up the series for a third book).
Employing a cast of charming characters and highlighting positive elements such as baseball, community gardens, fundraising bazaars, and family weddings, Maruno brings to life this tragic part of Canadian history while showing that, among the poverty and loss experienced by the internees, strong communities were still able to grow.