I admit, I'm not a big fan of Kira-Kira, a book that was okay in the reading but was clearly, to me, a good-for-you book: the kind of book your teachers wished you would read while you were busy scarfing down the latest Sweet Valley High. (Or maybe that was just me.)

So I didn't have high hopes for Weedflower, and in that I wasn't disappointed (if that convoluted logic makes sense). Weedflower comes with a huge good-for-you subject, namely the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. What kid wouldn't snatch that off the shelf? . . . (Oh, right. EVERY kid.)

And yet, Kadohata surprised me several times with the quality of the novel. Sumiko is a likable heroine, the story moves along at a pretty good clip, and the author addresses several issues that I either hadn't known about -- the relationship among Japanese Americans and Native Americans at Poston, for example -- or hadn't considered, such as the relative comfort of life in the camps for internees, at least after a while. Kadohata's father was held at Poston during the war, so presumably she knows of what she speaks.

I still think this is a book that needs a good booktalk or handsell to get a kid to read it; they're unlikely to pick it up on their own. Do I think it's award-caliber? Not really, but then again, I didn't think that of Kira-Kira, either.

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata. S&S, 2006, 260 pages.

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