A Place Where Sunflowers Grow

Presented By Alex Stingo EDEL 411 Section A

Lee-Tai, A. (2006). A place where sunflowers grow. Hong Kong: Jacket art.

Information About the Book

Title: A Place Where Sunflowers Grow
Author: Amy Lee-Tai
Illustrator: Felicia Hoshino
Genre: Historical Fiction
Topic/Theme: Even when situations get hard, family and friends will always be there to help you see the light. Never give up hope in any hardship life throws at you!

Award: Jane Adam's Children's Book Award

About the Author

Amy Lee-Tai is from Chinese and Japanese ancestry. She was born in Queens, New York, and first learned about the Japanese American internment from her mother. She also became very familiar with it through her grandmother's paintings. After earning her Master's in Education from Harvard, she worked in the schools as a Reading Specialist for eight years. Currently she lives in Virginia with her husband and two daughters. A Place Where Sunflowers Grow is Lee-Tai's first book, which won the Jane Adam's Children's Book Award.

About the Illustrator

Felicia Hoshino was born in San Fransisco, California. She graduated from the California College of Arts with a BFA in Illustration. Hoshino is a prize-winning, full-time artist and illustrator. In the book, A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, she uses many medias to produce the illustrations, including: watercolors, ink, tissue paper, and acrylic paint. In addition to creating mixed-media images for children's books and magazines, Felicia also studies and performs Japanese classical dance.

Criteria for High Quality Multicultural Literature

  1. Themes are consistent with the values, beliefs, customs, traditions and conflicts of the specific cultural group. This books underlying theme is that even when situations get hard, family and friends will always be there to help you see the light. It also encourages readers to never give up hope in any hardship life throws at you. The main character, Mari, feels hopeless when her family is interned with thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II. Although things seem unbearable, hope begins to surface through the encouraging words of Mari's parents and her new friend, Aiko. One quote that stood out to me in the book stated, "Spring comes after winter, and flowers bloom again. Peace comes after war. Try not to worry, Mari-chan." Mari's dad uses this Japanese philosophy to persevere through the hard times and spark a glimmer of hope.
  2. The book demonstrates unique language or style. This book definitely exemplifies a multicultural children's piece of literature. On every page of the book, the author first writes the dialog in English and then proceeds to write the dialog in Japanese. She not only does this for certain words, but every single word in the book. By doing this, the author has opened this book up to other cultures and dialects to take part in reading it.
  3. The book is rich in cultural details. A Place Where Sunflowers Grow does a great job showing what life was like for the Japanese Americans during World War II.
    It shows how people were put in harsh-conditioned camps and not given much just because of their race and cultural background. The book depicts the barracks they had to live in as well as the lack of toilets and showers available. In addition, the book illustrates the watchtowers where military police pointed guns at anyone they feared might escape. Although some of these pictures leave the reader uneasy, it does a very good job at showing the conditions for Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II.

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow Lesson Idea

Grade Level: 3rd

CCSS RL.3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story.

The student will identify a scene in the story that evokes great emotion in the main character, Mari.

  • I believe this book would be great to use as a cross curriculum material. Not only would it be great to use in literacy but in social studies as well! This book does a great job of showing what life was like for Japanese Americans during World War II. Through the use of illustrations and strong emotion from the characters, readers get a good mental image of the trial and persecution many innocent individuals had to go through.
  • After reading this book to the children, I would go back through and focus on the amazing illustrations. I believe the pictures in this book evoke alot of emotion and do a great job depicting the harsh conditions of the internment camps. Life for Japanese Americans in the camps during World War II was one of constant battle with little hope; however, this book depicts that with family and friends on your side and constant perseverance you can overcome the hardest obstacles life throws at you.
  • I would have the students select an illustration from the story that evokes great mood/emotion in the main character, Mari, and write a brief paragraph explaining the illustration and why it is so significant to the story. After the children have finished writing, I will have them go around and share their illustrations/reasoning. After some of the students have had a chance to share, I will lead the lesson into more of a social studies turn and go into further detail about internment camps and World War II with the students.