"Warriors in the Crossfire" is a nominee for the Sequoyah Intermediate Award for the 2012-2013 school year. The Sequoyah Award, sponsored by the Oklahoma Library Association, is given to one book from the list each year and is voted on by students. The intermediate level is for grades 6 through 8.
"Warriors in the Crossfire" is a historical fiction set on the island of Saipan during World War II. It is the story of a young boy and his family and their quest to survive the war and all of its effects on a family and their village. This village, quite literally, was caught in the crossfire between the Japanese and the Americans.
I typically enjoy historical fiction but I didn't love this book. However, someone interested in this culture and era might.
When I review a book, I make notes about words or sections that I think might be important in deciding if this would be an appropriate book for a child to read. I try to note things that would bother me as a parent, but I also try to take into consideration the concerns of parents who may be even more cautious than me.
So, here it goes...my notes on "Warriors in the Crossfire":
page 14 - Joseph and Kento have a plan to lie if they are questioned about where they have been
page 17 - A prayer to the "spirits of the sea" for safe travel and guidance, sighting of fairy terns believed to be a good omen
page 20 - In hunting turtles, Kento is told to ask the turtle permission to "take him", and ask his spirit "to give you his courage"
page 21 - mention of a good omen
pages 34, 35 - teen boys joked Joseph about his sister's "ripe mangoes" (apparently the females in the tribe wore only a skirt)
page 40 - chant to their ancestors
page 41 - soldiers drinking and getting drunk on sake and beer
page 41, 42 - drunken teen boys taunting Joseph about his pretty, naked sister, with "breasts as round as melons"
page 45 - mention of cockfighting
page 56 - Joseph's dad takes him to the cliffs and tells him to never return to this place of death and mentions the "white woman's hungry scream" and the fairy terns call to the lost souls who "forever search for home"
page 63 - mention of an omen
page 70 - thanking the spirits for their food
page 74, 75, 76 - the story of their ancestors (includes a spirit commanding them to get up, dance, chant, strike their warrior spears...then instructing them to teach their children the chants and the dances)
page 82 - instruction to "touch your spirit" in preparation to dance
page 83 - mention of ghosts (more of a question, not really an implication of the presence of actual ghosts)
page 91 - cry to our ancestors
page 93 - dark spirits that would steal the soul
page 96 - Joseph was given the responsibility of carrying his deceased father in the burial mat to the sea at Sa'dog Tasi the beginning of his "spirit path"
page 98 - Joseph prays to his ancestors to come and welcome his father
page 110 - a prayer to the Mother of God
page 112 - thanks to the spirits
page 113 - question "was this Kento? or his ghost?" It was Kento but it had been some time since they had seen him...hence the question
page 115 - place of lost spirits
page 118 - a scene where a mother and her children were shot and beheaded
page 118-120 - people leaping and stepping off the cliffs to their deaths
page 120 - lady shot in the head
page 131 - a scene of dead bodies..."swollen like dead fish"
page 132 - thanks to our ancestors
page 138 - "our ancestors were dancing - spinning, sweeping, flying"
I think there is the potential for this book to open up a dialog with your children about the effects of war and the value of honoring and cherishing your family. I think the discussion throughout the book about spirits and ancestors can be used to discuss the differences between that and a Christian worldview. I don't think that this book will cause any children to forsake their Christian belief system in lieu of praying and chanting to our ancestors and various spirits of the sea, etc...BUT I do not think this is going to become the next young reader sensation either. And while I think it is valuable to read things like this to be reminded of how incredibly blessed we are to live in a relatively peaceful and prosperous place and time, I personally do not expect it to win this year's Intermediate Sequoyah award!
Stay tuned for my review on "The Grimm Legacy"!!! So far, I can't seem to put it down!