Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: So Far From the Bamboo Grove

So Far From the Bamboo Grove
by Yoko Kawashima Watkins

This book is grimly realistic; it depicts quite vividly some of the horrors of war. For this reason I would only recommend this book to middle school children or older. If you have any doubts, you can read the book to ascertain whether your child would benefit from reading it.

Yoko is a young Japanese girl living in Korea during World War II. The war has only had a minor impact on her life – her father is away, and sometimes they must visit wounded soldiers in the hospital to show charity. But everything changes very quickly, and Yoko is caught up in a world of violence and desperation. Her family is forced to flee their home in hope of reaching Seoul and traveling to the safety of her grandparents in Japan. Along the way they face injury, sickness, deprivation, conflict and heartache, but Yoko and her family persevere and show great courage and ingenuity.

This book is written as fiction, but it is the true story of the author’s refugee flight. It is an excellent book for pleasure reading – prepare to have your emotions tugged! – or as part of a unit on World War II. Many books for young people are written from an American or European standpoint, so reading a book set in Korea and Japan puts a fresh perspective on the war. It might also help students who view war as distant, bringing home the thought of both sides having victims.

Guest post by: Sally 


  1. This book is not worth reading because it was made for international political purposes, not for education. Most of the facts are distorted in this book:

    There were no North-Korean soldiers in 1945 (they existed after 3 years), and the location of where the author claims to have been when she was young did not have the right condition for bamboo trees to grow back then (Nanam). She also claims to have seen and heard bombs explode due to US air-force planes, but B-29s did not have fuel tanks large enough to fly all the way to Korea (nor were there ANY records of bombing in Korea at that time). Also, the United States ORDERED the Japanese soldiers occupying in Korea to be left ARMED until every Japanese civilians were escorted back to their homeland. Thus if Japanese civilians were REALLY raped, chances are, they were raped by their own people.

    So what do we have left from this novel? Just a fictional book that distorts history in a very ironic way (Considering the fact that the Japanese soldiers RAPED and MURDERED Korean women at wartime for pleasure. They actually had the nerves to call these women 'Comfort Girls'). The book title should be renamed as "So Far from History and the Truth"

    It's like Hitler claiming that he was tortured by the Jews in the Holocaust. Sounds like a nice book for young kids and adults eh?

  2. true. this "fiction" is only a fiction afterall and with no historical reality. children SHOULD NOT be recommended to read this book. well, atleast without knowing what cruelty those oversea japaneses families were doing to so billions of asians for decades.