Sep 10, 2009

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

"I'd sneaked away from my parents and gone to the depot, too, because I'd never seen any Japanese. I expected them to look like the cartoons of Hirohito in the newspaper, with slanted eyes and buckteeth and skin like rancid butter. All these years later, I recall I was disappointed that they didn't appear to be a 'yellow peril' at all. They were so ordinary." (Page 2)

Sandra Dallas' Tallgrass is set in Colorado in 1942 just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The book is narrated by Rennie Stroud, who was a 13-year-old girl when the Japanese are rounded up and placed into an internment camp--known as Tallgrass Ranch--in Ellis, Colorado. Many of the Japanese in the camp just up from the Stroud's farm had been evacuated from their homes in California and their presence causes a major stir.

"They'd heard the sirens, too, and said it wasn't anything, but I feared that somebody had gone under the bobwire surrounding the camp and was going to break into our house and kill us." (Page 17)

Readers travel along with Rennie as she uncovers the truth about humanity regardless of color or creed and as she discovers the truth about her family. She grows into a woman more quickly than her parents would like, but given the rationing, the war effort, the harvest, and the increasing racial tension, Rennie has little choice but to mature.

"Things were tense even for the kids in the camp who never came in contact with people from Ellis. Little boys there played war games, just like the boys in Ellis. Daisy told us she'd watched a group of Tallgrass kids pretending they were fighting in the South Pacific and heard one complain, 'How come I have to be the damn Jap all the time?'" (Page 238)

Readers will enjoy growing along with Rennie and getting into trouble with her and Betty Joyce. Dallas does an exceptional job of rounding out Rennie's character from her naivete to her compassion and empathy for the plights of those less fortunate, like the Japanese and her friends. However, Tallgrass is more than a coming of age story; it also touches upon the harm caused by wrong-headed government policies, the fear that leads to prejudice and hatred, and the impact a war can have on everyone.

While readers may see some holes in how one of the main mysteries is resolved, Dallas' resolution is in tune with the narrator she chose, a 13-year-old who is not privy to serious adult conversation. Overall, Tallgrass is a novel about WWII, family, growing up, and learning how to build a community even when differences exist.


This is my 6th book for the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge.

Thanks to Staci at Life in the Thumb for reviewing Tallgrass with several other WWII books that I had to pick up from the library and read all together.

Also Reviewed By:
Adventures in Reading
Jo-Jo Loves to Read!!!
Life in the Thumb



22 comments:

J.T. Oldfield said...

I have a friend whose grandparents met in the interment camps in Colorado. I'll have to tell her about this one!

Melody said...

Thanks for the lovely review! Onto the wishlist it goes! ;)

Literary Feline said...

I've been wanting to read this. Having spent most of my life in California, history involving the internment camps was a regular part of the curriculum. It's just one more aspect of WWII that really interests me. As a result, I tend to gravitate towards books like this.

Thanks for the great review!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I've been hearing alot about this author all of the sudden. I never knew diddly about the internment camps until I read "The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet". What an eye-opener! And all the better to see it through a child's eyes. I've got to read this.

Kaye said...

Tallgrass is a wonderful story that I really enjoyed. It led me into researching some things I had no clue about. There were also internment camps for Italian-Americans.

Julie P. said...

I really liked TALLGRASS but I'm a big fan of Ms. Dallas'. I thought this would make a great discussion book!

Serena said...

J.T. Oldfield: Wow, that's great. I would love to hear their story...

Melody: I really think you'll like this one.

Literary Feline: you'll really like this book and I love learning about the internment camps, etc.

Sandy: I think you should add this to your war reading...you'd love it.

Kaye: I love when stories make you research other topics.

Julie: This is my first book by this author, but I can totally see myself reading more of her work.

Anna said...

Great review! You've made want to read this one.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

Anna: I think you should add it to your WWII list!

Jo-Jo said...

This was such a historically informative book, I'm glad you liked it Serena. And thanks for linking my review!

Serena said...

Jo-Jo: You are welcome.

bermudaonion said...

I think it's impossible to read a story involving war and not read about wrongheaded government decisions. You've made me want to read this book.

Iliana said...

I've seen this book before but had no idea about the story. Another one for my list!

Serena said...

Bermudaonion and Iliana: I think you both would enjoy this book. It's great to see it from the perspective of a young girl.

Diane said...

Serena,

I thought the audio version of this one was very good when I listened to it. Did you read Prayers for Sale by this author? also very good. I did enjoy your review; thanks

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I've had this book on my shelf for way too long. I am really hoping to get to it in the next month or so.

softdrink said...

I've never read any of Sandra Dallas' books, but this one does look interesting.

Belle said...

I generally don't gravitate toward historical fiction, but you've definitely piqued my interest in this one. Great review, and I enjoyed the quotes you chose, too.

Veens said...

Awesome REVIEW! I have seen the movie Pearl Harbor like 2 times :) I would LOVE to read this... i hope I can find it here though!

Ladytink_534 said...

I think I was in high school before I learned about the USA's internment camps. Now my first year in middle school was spent talking about the Holocaust and Anne Frank, etc. but never once did they mention what the US did. I actually found that out on my own. I'm a bit curious about this book because I can't help but wonder how regular every day people reacted back then

Serena said...

Diane: I have not read the latest from this author, but I would be open to reading more of her work. I'll keep an eye out for the latest book at the library.

Melissa: Now is the time to take it down from the shelf.

Softdrink: I hadn't read her books either, but this one was great.

Belle: I'm glad I peaked your interest in a historical fiction book. Let me know if you take the plunge.

Veens: I hope you find a copy of the book.

LadyTink: I had the same experience in school until I got to high school when my honors history teacher thought it best to tell the "whole" story.

Anna said...

I added your review here on War Through the Generations.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric