Finding Moon Rabbit

Written by J. C. Kato J. C.²
Review by B. J. Sedlock

The story opens with Koko Hayashi, her sister, and mother on a train on their way to the Heart Mountain World War II internment camp with other Japanese Americans who were forced to relocate. Their father, Koko is told, has been sent away on a photography assignment by the government, and she misses him terribly. She tries to remember her father’s advice to have gaman, patience. The family encounters flimsy barracks living quarters, mud everywhere, shortages of paper, coal, and other goods; and hostility from the locals. Koko tries to make the best of things, using the backs of food can labels for writing paper, joining the camp Girl Scout troop, and helping elderly Mr. Yamamoto with his quest to start a garden. But when Koko finds out her father has been detained as a Japanese spy, and her mother winds up in the camp hospital with a possible case of TB, she fears she and her sister might be taken into foster care.

Koko is an engaging and resourceful character, a normal preteen who squabbles with her sister and complains about the food in the dining hall. But she has to endure abnormal conditions, such as interacting with a military policeman and worrying about being shot if found outside the barbed wire. Readers get a clear sense of what life in the internment camps was like for the residents. Both authors have family members who were interned during the war and discuss in the authors’ notes their families’ reluctance to speak about the experience. They provide maps, a chronology, and a bibliography for young readers who wish to learn more. This would make good supplementary reading for a World War II history lesson, but it’s also great as a standalone adventure story. Recommended.