________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 18. . . .May 2, 2008


Naomi's Tree.

Joy Kogawa. Illustrated by Ruth Ohi.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-1-55455-055-5.

Subject Heading:
Japanese Canadians-Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4

Reviewed from f&g's.



Naomi put her arms around the tree and leaned her head on the hard, rough bark. All the tears she had not shed came flooding out.

"Dear Cherry Tree," she said softly. "My dear, dear Cherry Tree. How old we have become."


I recently had a Japanese friend over for a meal with my family. One of the things that my dinner guest said about her move to Winnipeg was how much she misses the cherry blossoms that are so celebrated in Japan. I was reminded of that conversation when I sat down to read Joy Kogawa's new picture book, Naomi's Tree. Naomi's Tree is an abbreviated version of Kogawa's 1986/2005 novel, Naomi's Road, and tells the story of a Japanese family living in Canada. The Second World War disrupts the family, eventually tearing members' lives apart. Stephen and Naomi, who spent many wonderful childhood days beneath the shade of their Vancouver backyard cherry tree, are forced into an internment camp.

     The book's text and illustrations contain both beauty and grace, but these are tempered by more than a little sweet, nostalgic sadness. Much of the nostalgia will be lost on young readers, but this emotion will increase the book's appeal for many parents.

     Each double page spread features a full page, full colour illustration with a facing page of text. The amount of text on each of these facing pages ranges from as few as four lines of text up to 19 lines. The top of each text page is decorated with an illustration of pink cherry blossoms. Throughout the book, Ruth Ohi's illustrations have a grainy, heavily textured appearance, perhaps reflective of the bark of a cherry tree. Ohi uses predominantly cool colours, and this usage might suggest the shade that a cherry tree offers as relief from a simmering summer sun.

      Naomi's Tree will be a useful resource for introducing children to some aspects of Canadian history with which they might be unfamiliar, including the idea of enemy aliens and internment camps, and the Canadian dispersal policy. Whether for educational purposes or for reading for pleasure, Naomi's Tree represents a good purchase choice.


Gregory Bryan teaches literacy education courses in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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