This book was super interesting to me, for two reasons.
1. It's written in free verse, which I've noticed with my middle school students was an excellent way to engage reluctant, English as a second language, and not quite up to grade-level readers. The free verse structure -- super short lines, with 8-9 words per line max -- makes for very easy entry into the text and keeps students reading, because of high success and low frustration levels. Students progress quickly through the text, giving them a sense of accomplishment and pride as they read.
2. The POV (point-of-view -- ELA teachers note this) is unique, that I'm aware of, for WWII literature on the market right now. The story is told from the POV of a Japanese girl, whose family worked a farm seized from Chinese farmers in Manchuria, near the U.S.S.R. border.
Twelve-year-old Natsu doesn't necessarily understand that her parents are working fields that were taken from Chinese farmers. She understands the Chinese don't like the Japanese working the farms, but she's not yet politically astute enough to understand why, or what had to happen for her parents to get the farm in the first place.
Her world falls apart with the 1945 invasion by the Soviet Union of China, liberating the Japanese-occupied farms and returning them to their Chinese rightful owners. But what happens to the Japanese children, when their parents are rounded up and taken away?
Desperately sick with dysentery and charged with looking after her little brother by her father, before he's taken away, she gives her little brother to a wealthy Russian woman who promises to take care of him.
But when Natsu decides to head back to Japan and find her parents, she's determined to take her little brother with her. She outstubborns the woman, who finally gives him up, and they start their journey.
This is not a feel-good story. You don't get a clear ending. There is little or no hope that they'll find their parents when they return to Japan, in those final lines of verse, and apparently this mirrors the real life experiences of those who escaped and made it back to Japan. They were not welcomed, they often had no one to greet them, as none of their families survived or would acknowledge them once they returned.
It's a grim period in a history not often examined in US-WWII curriculum, and would make an excellent addition to your ELA poetry offerings. I can't recommend it in Teachers, however, as I could find no free teaching resources to accompany this book.