Monday, January 23, 2012

Kathryn Fitzmaurice's A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

The ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced in Dallas today at 7:45 AM CST.  I'll be listening in (here's their webcast site) to see what wins.  They'll also be tweeting (@ALAyma).  

In the meantime, here's a future Newbery possibility: 

A Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice (Coming February 16, 2012 from Viking, 9780670012923, ages 10 and up, $16.99)

Visit the Author's website

Source: advanced reading copy from publisher

Synopsis (from Indiebound): For Tetsu, baseball is so much more than just a game.

On December 6, 1941, Tetsu is a twelve-year-old California boy who loves baseball. On December 7, 1941, everything changes. The bombing of Pearl Harbor means Tetsu's Japanese-American family will be relocated to an internment camp.

Gila River camp isn't technically a prison, but with nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no time frame for leaving, it might as well be. So when someone has the idea of building a baseball diamond and starting a team, Tetsu is overjoyed. But then his sister gets dangerously sick, forcing him to choose between his family and his love of the game. This is an impeccably researched, lyrical story about baseball, honor, and a turbulent period in U.S. history.

Why I liked it: Kathryn Fitzmaurice's luminous prose verges on the poetic.  Many of the chapters are short, more like vignettes of life in Gila River.  So it should appeal to reluctant readers, especially if they like baseball.

But even if you're not a baseball fanatic, you'll still find many reasons to read about Tetsu and his family and the harsh conditions at the internment camp.  Note that this is for upper middle grade.  Fitzmaurice doesn't gloss over the difficulties.  This is a work of fiction, but she did staggering amounts of research and interviewed the real Tetsu who played baseball at that internment camp.

I learned a lot from reading this book.  Imagine being forced to leave your home and your dog and move to a reservation in the middle of the desert, with sparsely-furnished barracks and nothing to do, not even a school at first.  Imagine fifty-six families sharing one latrine.  Imagine dust storms that sicken people.  It's hard to believe today.  But it really happened. 

My mother grew up in Los Angeles and was about the same age as Tetsu in 1942.  She well remembers some of her classmates who were Japanese-Americans being in class one day and not the next.  It was a dark time in our history.  Kathryn Fitzmaurice, author of The Year the Swallows Came Early, shines a brilliant light on that time period and makes us realize what Japanese-Americans endured then.

What middle grade historical fiction are you passionate about?

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is the brainchild of Shannon Messenger. Other regulars include (but are not limited to):

Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Barbara Watson at her blog
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael Gettel-Gilmartin at Middle Grade Mafioso
Pam Torres at So I'm Fifty
Ms. Yingling at Ms. Yingling Reads
Danika Dinsmore at The Accidental Novelist
Jennifer Rumberger at her blog
Akoss at Nye Louwon--My Spirit
Gabrielle Prendergast at angelhorn
Sheri Larsen at her blog


  1. I can't imagine being forced to move like that. We are so lucky not to have gone through what some people have to overcome. Thanks for sharing about this book.

  2. wow - this sounds like a moving story. thanks so much for featuring it - i never heard of it before, and now can't wait to read it :)

    i'm new to MMGM, and am also posting about a historical piece today (zora and me). really hot in middle grade right now!

  3. That's very interesting to hear your own mother's thoughts on the same time period from a different perspective! You know how excited I am for the book! :)

  4. This is a very moving story and not only is it historical but it could go under my multicultural feature as well.
    I've only recently started to read historical fiction for MG, so it might take me a little while to find the utmost favorite. However I'm always open for recommendations. Thanks Joanne.

  5. We are lucky, Natalie. Thanks.

    Hi Gina. I'll hop on over to your blog, along with all the others. And I'll add you to my growing list above.

    Hi Jennifer. Yes, I know you're excited about this book! Looking forward to your own post.

    Akoss, it's a great read, and yes, it certainly fits in with your multicultural feature. There's a lot of really wonderful MG historical fiction out there. I need to read more of it.

  6. Yes, it's a terrible stain on American history. On another note, it's funny how baseball permeates so much literature in the USA. It's almost magical. I just read BOY TOY by Barry Lyga, which has a lot of baseball in it, even though it's about something completely different.

    1. You're right about that, Gabrielle! Baseball seems to be America's game.

      I haven't read Boy Toy. Thanks for the heads-up.

  7. This sounds like a great classroom read. People forget (even I do sometimes) that we had our very own internment camps here in the U.S. I remember reading A FAREWELL TO MANZANAR when I was in 9th grade - a memoir rather than historical fiction about the Japanese internment, but also a good one for any kids who want to read more about it.

    1. Hi Danika. Yes, it's easy to forget that we did that here in the US. And I read Farewell to Manzanar ages ago and remember loving it. I considered mentioning it in this review, but it's definitely more adult. Thanks!

  8. I will be checking into this one. I love teaching history through stories (so much more memorable). This sounds like one to be read aloud with my own kids too--so much to talk about.

    1. You would definitely like this, Barbara. I know you love historical fiction. And yes, there's a great deal to discuss.

  9. Thank you for such a lovely review, and for your kind words about the story.

    1. Kathryn! Thank you so much for visiting my blog! I'm honored. It's a great book. And I loved The Year the Swallows Came Early too.

  10. I'll have to read this one. Thanks for the heads-up!

  11. Hi Myrna! Hope you do get a chance to read it.

  12. Thank you for this! I will be reading it. One of my favorite historical fictions is Wednesday Wars. Another is a series by a Canadian author-Kit Pearson, The Sky is Falling (kids from Britain coming to Canada during the Blitz).

    1. Hi Deb! I loved Wednesday Wars too. Haven't heard of the Kit Pearson one, but isn't she the author of A Handful of Time? I've read that!

  13. This sounds like a wonderful story. I did a lot of reading in the 1990s about the Japanese-American experience during WWII, in the hopes of writing a novel that, alas, never came to fruition. I loved Lauren Kessler's STUBBORN TWIG, which is non-fiction, but a great exploration of what happened to a family from Oregon who were sent to the internment camps.

    I will have my eye out for this one!

    1. Michael, that sounds like hefty research. It's all good -- someday you'll use it in another novel, right?

      I haven't heard of STUBBORN TWIG, so thanks for the heads-up.

  14. I'm so excited about this. I loved her The Year The Swallows Came Early. I love historical fiction so this one is definitely going on my TBR. Thanks, and really great review!


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