________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 32 . . . . April 20, 2012


Cherry Blossom Winter.

Jennifer Maruno.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2012.
174 pp., trade pbk., $9.99.
ISBN 978-1-4597-0211-0.

Subject Heading:
Japanese Canadians-Evacuation and relocations, 1942-1945-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Jocelyn Reekie.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



“Proceeds will not be given to the owners,” Ted continued as his voice grew low, “unless they can prove need.”

Sadie gave a sharp incredulous cry.

Ted lowered the letter to the table. “You don’t want to hear the rest.”

Eiko buried her face in her hands. “What do they mean by need?” she said.

“Let me see that,” Sadie said, snatching up the letter. She scanned it quickly with her eyes, and then read out loud. “Your Ford was sold by the government for thirty-three dollars. Handling charges for the transaction were thirty dollars.” Her voice moved to anger as she shouted out the words: “We will forward you a cheque in the amount of three dollars.”

Sadie waved the letter in front of everybody’s face. “Do you mean to tell me that you can’t get the price of your own house or your own car? All you can get is three measly dollars?”

Ted took the letter from her and handed it back to Sam. “You knew the house sold.”

Geechan patted Sam’s arm. “We can never see the sun rise by looking to the west.”

“How can you say that?” Sadie screeched. “First they take your boat, then our radios and cameras.” She stood up, shoving her chair behind her. “They forced Sam into a chain gang,” she exclaimed, “and all you can say is, look the other way?”

Michiko held her breath, expecting her grandfather to rise and rebuke Sadie. But he didn’t.

Cherry Blossom Winter, a sequel to Jennifer Maruno’s When the Cherry Blossoms Fell (CM, Vol. XVI, No. 11, Nov. 13, 2009), resumes the story about the internment of British Columbia’s Japanese-Canadians during World War II. Maruno continues to follow 10-year-old Michiko Minigawa and her family as they negotiate the twists and turns their lives are forced to take by the government of British Columbia.

      The latest injustice the family has been handed is an official letter informing them everything they worked to obtain and owned in Vancouver has been sold, and they can expect essentially none of the proceeds. Michiko’s aunt, Sadie, is outraged, but Michiko’s geechan (grandfather) believes that what is done is done, and there is nothing to be gained by dwelling on the past. On top of that, Michiko’s friend, Kiko, later informs Michiko that the Japanese families that have been relocated to BC’s interior are going to be forced to move again, this time to Japan or eastern Canada. The news spins Michiko’s family into another dilemma as her father opts for Japan and her mother is equally determined she and the children are Canadian and are going to remain so.

      Along with Michiko’s family’s problems, Kiko sometimes behaves in ways Michiko cannot understand. One act in particular causes a rift between the girls as Michiko confronts Kiko about a serious wrong she has committed and tries to find a way to right it without leading to more trouble. In the end, Michiko discovers Kiko is carrying a hard secret.

      In this coming-of-age book, Maruno develops strong central characters and multiple plot lines. Her author’s note tells us she relies on information given to her by her mother-in-law for authentic details of life as it was in an internment camp, and for glimpses into Japanese traditions and beliefs that were held onto during a time when marginalized immigrants worked hard to become full participants in Canadian society and struggled to balance two identities—a theme that continues to exist today. That struggle becomes Michiko’s when she realizes her grandfather’s and parents’ oft-repeated dictum that children should “stick to kid business” and not concern themselves with adult issues has left her woefully ignorant of family business that has affected her life in the past and is now threatening to cut her out of decisions that will forever affect her future.

      Spurred on by Kiko, whose guardian puts out the Japanese newspaper in their small community (and thus Kiko is at least partially informed about almost all of the adult business affecting the community), Michiko’s awareness develops slowly and is the more credible for it. At the same time, her connection to her grandfather and his influence on her are never left behind, even after his death.

      Cherry Blossom Winter is a book about the deep roots of traditions, core family values, and successful relationships, as much as it is about a government’s betrayal of a people who helped to build a province, and Michiko is a likeable character readers will be happy to follow, wherever she goes. A satisfying read.

      The Japanese vocabulary and glossary at the back of the book that explains it will perhaps be an added point of interest for some.

Highly Recommended.

Jocelyn Reekie is a writer, editor and publisher in Campbell River, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.