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Naomi's Tree by Joy Kogawa
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Naomi's Tree

by Joy Kogawa

Other authors: Ruth Ohi (Illustrator)

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"Long ago in the Land of Morning, which is known today as Japan, a beautiful cherry tree grew. Each spring, lilting pink blossoms danced into view and filled the air like popcorn. And as the flowers fell in a snowy cloud, children joined hands and sang and skipped around the tree."

And so begins Joy Kogawa's quiet but powerful tale of a Japanese-Canadian family, their love for one another and for their heritage, and their sorrow when war divides and uproots them, separating them from all they know. Cultivated from a seed brought to Canada by her grandmother, the cherry tree in Naomi's yard is both friend and guardian: a symbol of friendship, love and roots; a marker and assurance of continuity and safety. Every night "Naomi looked out her bedroom window, at the tree sleeping in the moonlight," and knew that "all was well."

"But the world changed." The war came, and with it separation, exile and death. With Mama visiting relatives in Japan at the outbreak of hostilities, and unable to return home, and Naomi, her brother Stephen, and her father uprooted and sent to an internment camp for Japanese-Canadians, nothing would ever be the same. Home and the cherry-tree were left behind, never to be regained. Or were they...?

Although I have read many clever picture-books, and looked at many beautiful illustrations, I cannot say that I am often moved by them, on any deep emotional level. Naomi's Tree is one of those rare exceptions. I do not know if it was Joy Kogawa's lyrical prose, so understated and yet so compelling, or Ruth Ohi's soft pencil and watercolor art, but I found myself weeping by the end of this book. I can readily believe that this story is based upon Kogawa's own childhood experience: it has the unmistakable ring of truth. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 18, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joy Kogawaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ohi, RuthIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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When a Japanese Canadian family is forced to leave their home for internment during World War II, the garden's old cherry tree sends out a song of love and peace as it patiently awaits their return.

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