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Hesse, Karen. Aleutian sparrow.

Simon & Schuster. 156p. c2003.0-689-66169-3. $16.95. JS

A beautifully designed cover introduces this series of short poems that tell a story about Aleutian people during WW II. The Japanese bombed some of their villages, and "for their own protection" the U.S. government relocated them to camps in the Alaskan forests, a place completely different from the windswept, treeless islands they knew. They longed for the life on the islands during their years of exile, and when they returned home after the war, their villages were mostly destroyed by the U.S. troops stationed there. The narrator is an adolescent girl, whose father is white and whose mother is Aleut. "She never, never talks about the day my father did not come home." Like so many other Aleutian people, the narrator's best friend Pari dies when they are in exile, unable to adjust to the strange new climate and diet. Her mother is lured by the white culture and abandons her people. But others cling to their memories and return to the islands after the war, determined to start anew.

The author includes a note at the end of the poems telling the factual history of the Aleutian people during the war, and there is a brief glossary. Hesse, as usual, displays her mastery of this form--creating a novel in poetry. This subject is more obscure than some others she has addressed, such as the Great Depression in her prize-winning Out of the Dust and small-town racial bigotry in Witness, but it does add to her impressive body of literature for YAs.
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Author:Rosser, Claire
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2003
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