Aleutian Sparrow

Aleutian Sparrow is a depressing book by Karen Hesse that is for middle school and high school reading levels. This book tells the history of the Aleut people that were relocated to Southeast Alaska during World War II. It is broken into chronological sections: during the move, after the move, and after the relocation was finished and they were returning home. Within each section is a collection of poem-like stories with easy-to-understand vocabulary and aesthetically pleasing.

While flipping through the pages I noticed one story, in the section after the Aleut people were settled into their temporary homes, that compares the Japanese prisoners of war to the Aleut people. Hesse emphasized the comparison of toilets. Japanese people had a toilet with a seat and flushes. The Aleut did not have working toilets, instead they had a trough that drained into a river. There was no seat, there was no flushing, and it was a humiliation to the people.

I selected this book, which was recommended by Angie and brought by Michelle, for its content in both history and english. This holds history of a native culture, the Aleut, relocation camps, and specifies the time during WWII. For the english part of content, it has a poem-like structure that is divided evenly by chronological events. Each short story or poem tells of a different aspect of this trouble time.

Having a collection of poems that tell a story is a strong concept that middle schoolers and high schoolers could appreciate. There is multiple stopping points throughout the book, the vocabulary is accurate for those grades, and there can be activities that relate to this book. It is interesting, captivating, and I am thinking of buying this book.

On the rubric, some sections are 3’s, but I lean more towards the 4’s because it is everything I enjoy about english and history. I would give it a perfect 5 if I had a chance to read through the entire thing, but as of this moment, it is a solid 3.75.

3 thoughts on “Aleutian Sparrow”

  1. Mason- I recently listened to this as an audiobook. I liked the way it was written in poetry, but sometimes I felt like I was missing some crucial details that way. I think I would have given it a 3.75 too 🙂 In the audiobook there was an interview with an Elder at the end that was really powerful. Hesse is overall a great historical fiction author for the secondary age group.

  2. Mason,

    I like your bluntness and description of the story here. Though this book is heavy I agree the structure of it is a great launching point for discussion and deeper thought on a hard topic to swallow.

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