104 pages 3 hours read

Alan Gratz


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2018

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  • Genre: Fiction; middle grade historical
  • Originally Published: 2018
  • Reading Level/Interest: Lexile 760L; grades 7-9
  • Structure/Length: Approx. 288 pages; approx. 5 hours, 24 minutes on audio
  • Protagonist and Central Conflict: In 1945, 14-year-old Okinawan Hideki is expected to fight for the Japanese army against arriving American forces during World War II. When Hideki meets a young American Marine during the Battle of Okinawa, their split-second decisions will have lasting consequences.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: War; graphic depictions of battle; racism and racial slurs; suicide; death of women and children

Alan Gratz, Author

  • Bio: Born in Knoxville, Tennessee; lives in Asheville, North Carolina; attended University of Tennessee; earned a College Scholars degree with a specialization in creative writing and a MA in English education; writer of 17 award-winning and bestselling works for young readers
  • Other Works: Refugee (2017); Allies (2019); Ground Zero (2021)
  • Awards: Freeman Book Award for Young Adult/Middle Grade Literature (2018); YALSA Quick Picks for Young Adult (2019); Bank Street Best Children’s Book (2019)

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Unit:

  • The Honor Culture of Imperial Japan
  • Okinawan Spirituality
  • The Might of the US War Machine
  • The Brutality of War

STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Unit, students will:

  • Develop an understanding of the historical and psychological contexts regarding the effect of WWII on soldiers, as well as Okinawan civilians, which incite Hideki’s and Ray’s trajectories in the novel.