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Aleutian Sparrow

Aleutian Sparrow

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Aleutian Sparrow

4.5/5 (15 Bewertungen)
64 Seiten
54 Minuten
May 11, 2010


In June 1942, seven months after attacking Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy invaded Alaska's Aleutian Islands. For nine thousand years the Aleut people had lived and thrived on these treeless, windswept lands. Within days of the first attack, the entire native population living west of Unimak Island was gathered up and evacuated to relocation centers in the dense forests of Alaska's Southeast.
With resilience, compassion, and humor, the Aleuts responded to the sorrows of upheaval and dislocation. This is the story of Vera, a young Aleut caught up in the turmoil of war. It chronicles her struggles to survive and to keep community and heritage intact despite harsh conditions in an alien environment.
May 11, 2010

Über den Autor

Karen Hesse is the author of many books for young people, including Out of the Dust, winner of the Newbery Medal, Letters from Rifka, Brooklyn Bridge, Phoenix Rising, Sable and Lavender. In addition to the Newbery, she has received honors including the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award, the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Award and the Christopher Award, and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award. Born in Baltimore, Hesse graduated from the University of Maryland. She and her husband Randy live in Vermont.

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Aleutian Sparrow - Karen Hesse


chapter 1


The old ones, Alexie and Fekla, they say,

"Go, Vera. Go to Kashega. See your mother, your friends.

It is only for the summer," they say.

Go. Nothing will happen to us.

So I go, eager to visit Kashega,

Riding the mail boat out of Unalaska Bay as Alexie and Fekla Golodoff,

and our snug house in Unalaska village,

and my photographs and books, my little skiff,

And my twelve handsome chickens,

All fade into the fog.


I arrive in Kashega. My friends Pari and Alfred squabble over me like a pair of seagulls fighting for a crab claw. My mother greets me like a stranger, with an Americanchin hug, then touches my hair.

There is no sign of trouble here. We have crayon days, big and happy.

The windows sparkle at night.

I had forgotten how a lighted window shines without blackout paper.


They weren’t always our enemy. There was a time when the Japanese sailed in and their crews played baseball with our Aleut teams.

But we saw what they were up to. We warned our government about Japanese who charted our shorelines, who studied our harbors from their fishing boats.

Our Japanese visitors expected always an amiable Aleut welcome. But when the hand of friendship was withdrawn,

They took their measurements and made their calculations anyway.


In the beginning, when I first moved away to Unalaska village to live with Alexie and Fekla Golodoff, I longed for Kashega. Kashega winter, when the men trap the blue fox. Kashega summer, when they hire themselves out to take the fur seal off the Pribilofs. All the Kashega year, with the boats bringing home sweet duck and fat sea lion.

Kashega autumns splash with salmon swimming into traps to become a winter of dry fish.

Sometimes sheep to shear, sometimes driftwood on the beach, sometimes an odd job.

And always Solomon’s little store, lit by kerosene, where the men drink salmonberry wine and solve the problems of our people.


Zachary Solomon ran the Kashega store for ten years maybe.

But when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Zachary Solomon went to war.

Always a white man has run the store.

But my mother took over when Zachary Solomon left. And she likes it.


Remember, I ask my mother, "how we visited Akutan

And walked the path up into the hills, passing the boiling springs, climbing higher, to where blossoms framed the steaming pools like masses of perfumed hair?

Remember, I ask my mother, how we waded in? Could we go again?

Maybe, she says, never looking up, lost in the pages of Life.


My mother never talks about when she was young and she did not listen to the old ways to keep a man safe. How she closed her ears to the Aleut tales.

She never talks about how she met and fell in love with and married a white man, how she sent him to sea without a seal-gut coat. She never talks about the storms driving in and piling up the waves. How time after time she watched from the headlands, fighting the winds, waiting for my father’s boat to come in.

She never says how I waited beside her, my fist crushing the seam of her skirt.

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15 Bewertungen / 16 Rezensionen
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  • (3/5)
    Japanese experience in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska during WW II.
  • (4/5)
    Karen Hesse is a genius. Out of the Dust was tragic and hopeful, sad and beautiful. Aleutian Sparrow is no exception. Set in the Aleutian Islands (off the coast of mainland Alaska) during World War II, this book is the story of Vera, a half-Aleutian and half-Caucasian girl, who is forced to move from her home into internment camps. We follow the journey of Vera and her neighbors from home to camp and back.Artfully written in short free-verse poems similar to Out of the Dust, Aleutian Sparrow is full of bursts of events and emotions. We learn about Vera's father dying at sea, the deforestation of the islands by western interests, and the better conditions of German prisoners of war nearby. The power of Hesse's writing is in her brevity. She brings up topics as heavy as the cruelty of war, the dehumanization of interned Americans, and rebuilding a community. This book is suitable for anyone who would like to learn something new about US involvement in internment camps, such as the one in Farewell to Manzanar. I recommend it for the discussion that it will prompt about ethics and community afterwards.
  • (4/5)
    A quick and heartbreaking look into an event that most Americans have never heard of. Before the US entered World War II, Japanese soldiers had invaded a few of the Aleutian Islands and as a result, the American government forced all the Aleutian natives were forced into internment camps for their own "safety" even though the Japanese quickly lost their tiny little foot-hole and the islands became safe. While the Aleutians were crowded into tiny camps with little amenities, bored US soldiers looted the islands destroying the native's homes. This story is told in verse from the perspective of a young girl, and is cheerful and heartbreaking in its tone. There is a dictionary and testimony from a real native girl that lived through the whole ordeal. The US government didn't formally apologize until 1988.
  • (5/5)
    Historical Fiction: Chapter BookHesse, Karen Aleutian Sparrow. Illust. by Evon Zerbetz. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003. 160p. This poetic, flowing tale, told in the first person by Vera, a teenage girl from Kashega, on the island of Unalaska in the Aleutians, takes place during World War II. When the Japanese invade in June of 1942, the villagers of all the islands west of Unimak Island are forced to evacuate. The villagers of Kashega are first taken to Wrangell, then to Ward Lake, near Ketchikan. There they must attempt to make a new life among the rainforests of SE Alaska, far from home and all they know. Sympathetic tone, with the themes of survival and tradition.AK: Kashega, Unalaska, Wrangell, Ketchikan, Aleutians, SE Alaska, AK HistoryActivity: Have a large map out and help the children find Kashega, Unalaska, Wrangell, Ward Lake, and Ketchikan on it. Trace the journey the villagers took. Have the children check the map key and figure out how far away from home they travelled.
  • (5/5)
    This book is amazing.Bringing to light a little-known aspect of World War II, Karen Hesse has created a powerful, sad story. Like many of her books, it is written in a sort of prose or poetry fashion, which seems perfect for the story.This book made me cry. Vivid, realistic, and very powerful.An amazing book!
  • (4/5)
    Each chapter consists of a titled, short, one-page free verse poem. The book is divided into parts for various time periods and locations; each part is introduced with a woodcut.The United States government moves Aleuts to camps for their own protection. The nearby townspeople are less than welcoming, their traditional way of life is not taken into consideration, life is difficult, living conditions are unhealthy, and when they finally, finally are allowed to return to their homes, they discover that some of the soldiers who had been staying there have destroyed much. At one point, Vera, the narrator, points out that the prison camps provided for German POWs are far better than what the Aleuts are given. This was a time when civilizing "backward" people was considered a good thing, not only by government bureaucracy, but even by some of these people themselves: think of the greenhorns who wanted to forget the Old Country and become American. So much was lost by authorities who saw themselves as only trying to help.The author's note at the end of the book gives more details and emphasizes the loss of people and their culture. What is most disturbing is that the Aleuts could have returned to their homes after the summer of 1943.
  • (3/5)
    Certainly, a little-known historical snippet in time, Aleutian Sparrow recounts the post Pearl Harbor attack on Alaska's Aleutian Islands. As a result of this attack, the U.S. government moved the inhabitants of these islands to Southwest Alaska...a dense, forested land which the people were unaccustomed to. The relocation centers, while created for good and safety, did little to enhance or even support the life of these people, who for centuries thrived on the islands. Aleutian Sparrow is a fictionalized account of their story...a story filled with sadness, despair, death, and survival. These peoples would never be the same, as their livelihood, customs, and way-of-life were ripped apart. Told in verse, the words are as sparse as the hope the people had.
  • (5/5)
    A beautifully written story told from the eyes of a native Aleutian teen. Adding yet another layer to the horrors of war is the little known fact about the travesties that haunted and scarred the small chain of islands off Alaska's coast called the Aleutians. In 1942, the Aleutian Islands were attacked by Japan. Vera and her family are forced to move to from their land, where they made seal-gut pants, could capture cod with their hands and gather grass for fires and medicine to a dirty, inhospitable camp. In the camp they wait for three long years through death, disease and persecution for the US Government to let them return to the home that bombs and US soldiers have destroyed. I enjoyed the historical relation to the story and appreciated that Hesse told the story in such a beautiful emotive way. I felt the pain and longing of Vera through the poetic language.
  • (3/5)
    Vera, an Aleut girl forced to relocate during World War II, tells the story of their days in Wrangell and Ward Lake. Emphasis was made that Americans were doing this to their fellow citizens and that excuses were being offered for the behavior. The internment experiences during World War II are tragic. We often hear stories of the Japanese, Germans, and Italians who were relocated, but the author wanted to share the story of the Aleuts. I listened to the audio book. I did not think the narrator did a good job. Her voice seemed to lack emotion to support the story. The book itself did not lend itself well to an audio read. Several of the chapters or subheadings are only about a sentence long so it seemed very choppy. Occasionally the words seemed to flow poetically, but it was soon interrupted by a short segment that lacked the same eloquence.
  • (4/5)
    The setting is 1942 and the Aleutian Islands are torn apart by war. Invaded by Japan and then the United States, the Aleutian culture, like their land, is scattered and decimated.Told from the perspective of Vera, this is an excellent chronicle of the destruction and senselessness of war.
  • (5/5)
    I just read this book and wow! Hesse manages to fit so much pain into so little writing. The prose style was unexpected and she puts her own spin on it. I had no idea this happened during WWII and now I find myself wanting to research it. Such a powerful story.
  • (5/5)
    What attracted me to the "Aleutian Sparrow" initially was the graphic design on the chapter pages. Beyond that the concise, light looking text attracted my literature eye. I hadn't seen a book designed like this before, or at least a book that was for someone older than 8 years of age. The "Aleutian Sparrow" is un-rhymed verse. Each page is really a separate poem highly one aspect of the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians during WW2 and the relocation of Aleuts. It is fiction, but is written in first person. This gives the book an appearance of being non-fiction. I think using first person narrator makes the book easier to read. Finally, I think Karen Hesse has written a text that could easily differentiate a WW2 literature unit for below grade level readers. This book is not easy, but the way it was written and designed, makes it more readable for struggling readers and under-motivated readers.
  • (4/5)
    As she has done with other volumes, Ms Hesse has managed to tell a story full of longing and pain in the spare and carefully-chosen words of free verse. The native Aleutians were evacuated from their historic homes when the Japanese invade the islands during World War II. The thread that winds through all the pages is one of longing for the islands of home, and the pain of a heritage lost. Love, however, endures.
  • (4/5)
    This slim volume, written in luminous free verse, tells the story of the Aleutian Evacuation during WW II.

    I had never heard of this episode in the USA’s history. Shortly after the Japanese attacked Attu Island in June 1942 (an attempt to distract the US Navy away from the South Pacific), the government decided that it would be “best” for the Aleutian natives living on the islands to be evacuated “for their protection.” Nearly 900 Aleuts were removed by the US government from nine villages on six islands and forcibly transported to Southeast Alaska “duration camps.” Most were given little more than an hour to collect their necessary belongings, for a trip to an unknown destination, for an unknown length of time. People used to a subsistence living, were deposited in old canneries, or mining camps, without adequate shelter, sanitation, water, food, medical care or any means to support themselves. While the Japanese left the islands by 1943, the Aleuts were not allowed to return to their homes for three years. The deplorable conditions they endured resulted in epidemics of TB, pneumonia, whooping cough and other disease; over ten percent of them died during internment. Those who did return to the islands found that their homes had been destroyed and/or ransacked … not by the Japanese, but by American military troops.

    I learned all the above by doing some research after reading this novel. But I certainly gathered clues and a feeling of the injustice suffered by the Aleuts during this time.

    Hesse’s novel follows one young teen, Vera, and her friends and family as they struggle to make sense of what is happening, to survive the hardships and to adapt to a life none had ever imagined. The beauty of the work is that Hesse can convey so much in so few words. Here is one page…

    When Eva returns from Ketchikan, she says
    The creek there is like a woman
    Dressed in a filmy green gown,
    Her lace pockets spilling with leaping salmon.

    Despite the hardships, there is room for love and faith. Babies are born and cherished. Christmas is celebrated. Still, the sense of loss is palpable. I will be thinking about this novel and the Aleutian Evacuation for a long time.
  • (4/5)
    Review of Aleutian Sparrow, by Karen HesseThis is a beautiful, delicate book dealing with the invasion of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands by the Japanese. Central character Vera moves through the pages like a ghost, leaving touches of humour, sorrow, confusion, resilience and bittersweet memory. The verses are clear with many evocative descriptions. Some are truly stunning in their simple, beautiful observations that connect the Aleutian people with their environment. The style and subject of this children’s book is quite mature, and yet Hesse retains an innocent and engaging tone. A wonderful read.
  • (5/5)
    I loved this book. I thought it was well written and touching, and brought a page in history, that I knew nothing about, to life. One of my favorite poems from the book is on page 59. I like it so much because it opens up so many questions about preserving history, identity, colonialism, and respecting one’s ancestors: While The Little Ones Kicked The CanAlfred's grandfather says, "Remember, we were once unparalleled hunters, men of the sea. We were the elders of the world. We had our own language, our fierce victories, our tribal pride. The Russians ended that. "We went from ten thousand to eight hundred. Our grandparents preished. Our parents perished. And that was before the Americans came. How many times can a people lose their wayBefore they are lost forever?"A lyrical book that also packs a lot of information into few words, Aleutian Sparrow is a wonderful read that would be a perfect complement to a unit on WWII.