Friday, March 16, 2012

Guest Post: Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury

Eddy Okubo is a Japanese-American teenager living in Hawaii as World War II continues to rage. Only 16, he lies to join the Army alongside two of his older friends to fight for his country and destroy the Nazis. Just after Eddy enlists, the Japanese air force bombs Pearl Harbor. Suddenly the war changes. Eddy, Chik, and Cobra- all of Japanese ancestry- are viewed as the enemy, finding themselves imprisoned in their own barracks.

As the American army decides what to do with its Japanese-American soldiers, Eddy and his troop are sent to various base camps on the mainland to train, eventually ending up on a small, abandoned island in the Gulf of Mexico, just off Louisiana. Here, the troop of Japanese-American soldiers are given a secret mission that just may hold the key to defeating the Japanese enemy- training dogs to identify and kill based on the scent emitted by Japanese people.

Based on actual history, Eyes of the Emperor shows its readers a side of history not often presented in school. The Japanese-American soldiers Salisbury has created are full, dynamic characters through whom one can legitimately feel all the complex emotions felt by Eddy and his buddies. The absurdity and stark reality of the whole predicament, including the use of the Japanese-American soldiers as training targets for attack dogs, are expertly contrasted by Salisbury. One student who read this novel on my suggestion- a mid-level, but avid reader- loved it so much that he pleaded with both me and the library coordinator for another Salisbury title, Under the Blood-Red Sun, which is now on order. --Julie Weber

Guest blogger Julia Weber currently teaches ELA and Math at Passages Academy's Blum site.

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