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So far from the Sea_

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: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Chris K. Soentpiet

Gr 4-7/Ages 8+

32 pages/picture book
10.5" X 10.5
ISBN# 0-395-72095-8 hardcover
$16.00 US

ISBN# 0-547-237-529 paperback
$7.99 US

Clarion Books imprint of:
Houghton Mifflin
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
(800) 225-3362

  • Parents' Choice 1998 Picture Book Recommendation
  • Junior Library Guild 1998
  • FOCAL Award Best Book Winner 1999 (Friends of Children and Literature Central Los Angeles Public Library)

Laura Iwasaki and her family are paying what may be their last visit to Laura's grandfather's grave. The grave is at Manzanar, where thousands of Americans of Japanese heritage were interned during World War II. Among those rounded up and taken to the internment camp were Laura's father, then a small boy, and his parents. Now Laura says goodbye to Grandfather in her own special way, with a gesture that crosses generational lines and bears witness to the patriotism that survived a shameful episode in America's history. Eve Bunting's poignant text and Chris K. Soentpiet's detailed, evocative paintings make the story of this family's visit to Manzanar, and of the memories stirred by the experience, one that will linger in readers' minds and hearts.

Eve Bunting is one of my favorite authors. The way she can take a complex issue and make it simplistic and inviting. She writes with honesty and sensitivity about issues that are important in our country's history.
- Chris Soentpiet

Eve Bunting is the author of more than 150 books, Bunting has written something for every age group -- everything from young adult novels to picture books, on subjects ranging from homelessness (Fly Away Home), a modern-day look at a Civil War battlefield (The Blue and the Gray), the Irish village of Maghera where she was born (Market Day), and Smoky Night, about the Los Angeles riots, illustrated by David Diaz and winner of a Caldecott Medal.

Look for another Eve Bunting and Chris Soentpiet collaboration, JIN WOO.


Political history becomes personal narrative in this evocative story about a family's connection to Manzanar, one of the WWII camps where Japanese- Americans were interned. Prior to moving from California to Boston, the Iwasaki pay a last visit to the grave of Grandfather Iwasaki. Gazing across acres of empty space that once housed close to 10,000 prisoners, Mr. and Mrs. Iwasaki share vivid memories of camp life with their two young children, Thomas and Laura. As they struggle to explain the unfair treatment accorded her ancestors, Laura listens quietly, then just before leaving, places one final memento on her grandfather's grave. Bunting's spare prose effectively matches the developmental level of the ages for which this book is geared, and will generate questions that both educators and parents will find difficult to answer. Stark watercolors of the present alternate with black-and-white drawings representing scenes from the past. Together, text and illustrations create and sustain a mood reflection and reminiscence suited to the topic.

Theme: SO FAR FROM THE SEA can be used to introduce your students to Japanese-Americans, the internment camps, World War II, refugees, discrimination, multigenerational families, parents who have jobs and homes that were taken them away from them, parents who serve in the military.

Background: It was 1942, the President agreed to remove all persons of Japanese lineage... aliens and citizens alike, from the areas of California, Oregon and Washington. 2,192 Japanese Americans under arrest by the FBI. President Roosevelt created the War Relocation Authority (WRA). Milton Eisenhower became responsible for the plan to move the Japanese Americans to the interment camps. Congress imposed federal penalties for those Japanese who refuse to obey orders. Manzanar, the first American concentration camp was opened.

Pre-reading: Show the students the cover of the book, read the title, author and illustrators name. Ask them what they think the book will be about. Next show the illustrations -- now what do they think the book will be about. Set the location of the book -- tell the students the book has a story within a story. Explain that the father will tell a story that happened many years ago.

Reading: As you read and show the illustrations have the students look closely at the drawings. What details can they find in the pictures? Have them look closely at the expressions on the faces for the characters -- how do they change during the story. Ask the students how they think the characters are feeling when they were waiting to get on the bus to take them to the camps. Can they tell by the illustrations?

Interview: Talk with a Japanese-American. Do they know anyone who was interned in the camps? How about talking with a WWII Veteran -- then write their story.

Social Studies: Locate Japan on the map. Spend more time studying the Japanese American, Pearl Harbor, and WWII. Talk about the internment camps. Why were the Japanese interned and not the Italians or the Germans?

Literature: Read books like, BASEBALL SAVED US by Ken Mochizuiki, THE BRACELET by Yoshiko Uchida, GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY by Allen Say, I AM AN AMERICAN by Jerry Stanley. Look for other books by Eve Bunting or Chris Soentpiet. If you really enjoyed SO FAR FROM THE SEA write a review and post it on-line at or so others can enjoy your reading experience.

Art: Make an origami

  1. Start with a perfectly square sheet of paper. Paper made specifically for origami can be found at most craft stores. It is usually colored only on one side. I used a sheet that was colored on both sides. Begin by folding one edge to meet to other, with the colored side outward... Open up the paper and lay it flat. Now repeat step 2 in the other direction, and open up it up again. Fold it diagonally. Line it up corner to corner...
  2. Open up the paper, repeat step 4 in the other direction, and open up the paper again.

Bulletin Board - bring in a suitcase for display. Have each student list what they would pack if the had to leave home suddenly -- remember they will have to carry one suitcase!




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