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So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko…

So Far from the Bamboo Grove (edition 1994)

by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

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4678222,172 (3.83)4
Title:So Far from the Bamboo Grove
Authors:Yoko Kawashima Watkins
Info:HarperCollins (1994), Edition: 1st Beech Tree ed, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:3rd-4th Grade Readers, International Books, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Chapter Books

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So far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins



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I had mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed that I could see another culture’s perspective. I had no idea how greatly Japanese families had been effected during the war. I also liked that the author showed her journey and also showed her brother, Hideyo’s journey. This is helpful because Hideyo follows a similar route to Japan, but has different experiences because of the timing. I liked how the author italicized Japanese words and translated the word next to it in parenthesis or following the Japanese word. For example, “...tabi (socks)” and “Yokaren, the student army.” and “‘Bu Un Cho Kyu’” (Good Luck in War).” The italicized feature signals to the reader that the word is different than the English words and also that these are words that were important and used in Japanese language. The translation helped the reader understand what exactly the author is discussing. I did not enjoy how gory and depressing the story was. However, I enjoyed the big idea of the story, which is to be kind and strong in times of disaster and lost. ( )
  ktran4 | Feb 20, 2015 |
I usually do not like books that are set back in the time of war, but this book caught my attention and I really enjoyed reading it. The book makes the reader think about what is happening from the perspective of a 9 year old girl. Many students are going to be around this age when they read this book, so the reader is going to have sympathy for the character. Since the point of view is from the girl, the concepts are explained a little simpler than they would be if they were described from the mother. Because of this point of view, the book caught my attention and then book was not boring like I thought it would be. Since most books about events like this are filled with fact after fact, I usually loose interest. This book was different.

Yoko takes you through her thought process of what was going on. Many students who read this book are not going to know what it is like to go through this experience, so the reader is going to have a lot of questions. The students defiantly need to have a background lesson before reading this book so they understand some of the actions portrayed.

The language of the book was very simple and easy to understand. Again, that may be because of the point of view. The girl told you all of her thoughts and a connection could really be made with Yoko. Her fear for her family was very obvious, thus showing how she is caring young girl. I am sure many readers would be terrified if their mother passed away in their laps or if they had to walk hundreds of miles to escape the war.

I am twenty-one and I cannot imagine living in her shoes during this. I would never have been as strong as she was. This book makes students realize how lucky they are to have what they have today; a safe home, clothes, food, and a family.
  jbarro3 | Feb 16, 2015 |
In my opinion this is a great chapter book for 5th graders to read because it had an interesting plot, different points of view, and it pushes readers to think about what life was like in Korea around the time of World War II. This book tells the story of a Japanese family that was forced to escape from their home in Korea, and find shelter as well as a new life in Japan. The story is told from two different points of view, one from the youngest sister named Yoko who is traveling with her older sister and mother, and another point of view from their eldest brother Hideyo who was on his own. Throughout the story, readers will learn about the terrifying and dangerous trip that the family had to endure, in order to escape murder. Yoko, who is only eleven, begins complaining a lot about her own health and the family’s living conditions in the opening of the story. Throughout the book, she learns to become grateful for what she has and also learns to be kind and giving to others in need. After a long journey; escaping bombs, sickness and harassment Yoko and her mother and sister finally make it to Japan. When the three of them arrive to the shelter in Japan, they only have the belongings that they carried on their backs as well as very little money. A key element in the story is education, and that it is a priority for the family and highly valued in Japanese culture. For instance, the mothers first priority is making sure her daughters receive an education, even though they have no food, proper clothing or even school supplies. At Yoko’s new school, she received a lot of negative attention and bullying from her classmates because of her appearance. Yoko had filthy worn out clothing, torn shoes and a shaved head as a result of her journey. Yoko and her sister had to shave their heads in order to disguise themselves as Korean boys, since Japanese women were being raped and killed. Unfortunately, Yoko’s mother died of illness after they made it to Japan, but her and her sister learned to survive and support each other, as they awaited the return of their brother.
The overall message of this book is to be strong and courageous, and to never give up. I thought it was incredible how Yoko managed to travel on foot for six days after she survived a bomb attack. Yoko ended up having a piece of metal stuck in her ear, which made her lose her hearing and suffered an injury to her chest, which caused an infection. I just could not imagine trying to survive and travel while suffering with such an intense amount of pain. Hideyo also managed to stay strong, even when he thought his life was coming to an end. For example, after weeks of walking alone, without food or proper clothing, Hideyo felt weak and feared that if he sat down to rest he would not be able to get up. Finally, he managed to find a farm house during a blizzard and was bravely taken in by a Korean family. The family was very courageous and kind, since they knew that they would be killed if they were caught helping a Japanese boy. Hideyo most likely would have died, if it wasn’t for the hospitality and help of the Korean family. In Japan, Yoko ended up maturing at such a young age and helping care for her older sister. She acquired new skills, and learned how to survive on her own. For instance, she learned how to build a fire in order to cook, and began to figure out different ways to help make money in order for her and her sister to survive. I really liked how the book ended with the reunion of their brother coming to Japan. This book reminded me of other Holocaust survivor stories, and I never realized until now how similar life was for Japanese people and Jews during this time period. ( )
  ecahan1 | Feb 14, 2015 |
I am normally not a fan of books about immigration and this book once again did not engage or excite me. Through out the entire book I wish that there were more setting and plot descriptions. I found it very hard to picture what was happening in Yoko's escape and wishing that I could have imagined it better. If this book is going to be taught in a classroom, the Koreans will be portrayed as evil and barbaric. I would have liked to have had some history on both the Koreans and the Japanese before reading this book or through out this book so I could have a better understanding of what was going on and the view from both sides. However, at the end of this book there is a note saying that it is not needed to know much about the history of the Koreans to understand this book. I think that this is completely false and a way to make the readers feel bad for Yoko and her culture.
  lfasce1 | Dec 2, 2014 |
I enjoyed this book for a variety of reasons including it's writing and the point of view it was told from. I felt the author employed writing that was very engaging and made the story extremely engaging and powerful. I could sense the pain that the characters were enduring. The author made the audience feel like they were there when these events took place. The author engaged me when describing what happened to Yoko's brother when the Koreans invaded his ammunition factory. The writing was descriptive and I felt as if I was witnessing the invasion.
I liked that the story was told from the first person point of view of Yoko. Yoko contained the same curious tendencies as many children her age contain and would be easy for children to relate to. I could sense Yoko's pain when her mother died and sense her pride being broken by her peers in Japan. Yoko's point of view allowed me to connect to the story.
The main message of this story is to provide readers with an understanding of what occurred in Korea and Japan during WWII. I learned a lot about what occurred during WWII between Korea and Japan and how that affected various people living in those countries. ( )
  jessicaedelman | Nov 17, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0688131158, Paperback)

In the final days of World War II, Koreans were determined to take back control of their country from the Japanese and end the suffering caused by the Japanese occupation. As an eleven-year-old girl living with her Japanese family in northern Korea, Yoko is suddenly fleeing for her life with her mother and older sister, Ko, trying to escape to Japan, a country Yoko hardly knows.

Their journey is terrifying—and remarkable. It's a true story of courage and survival that highlights the plight of individual people in wartime. In the midst of suffering, acts of kindness, as exemplified by a family of Koreans who risk their own lives to help Yoko's brother, are inspiring reminders of the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:24 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A fictionalized autobiography in which eleven-year-old Yoko escapes from Korea to Japan with her mother and sister at the end of World War II.

(summary from another edition)

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