Reviews for A Diamond in the Desert

From School Library Journal: (starred review)

A Diamond in the Desert. By Kathryn Fitzmaurice. (Viking 978-0-670-01292-3). Gr 5-7‚ Based on actual events and narrated by 12-year-old Tetsu, this story paints an effective picture of the harsh reality of what life was like for thousands of Japanese Americans who were moved to relocation centers after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The chapters are delineated by place and time, grounding readers in Tetsu’s journey and are broken down into short sections, some only a paragraph or two in length, affording a manageable way in which to digest the information. From the opening pages, in which readers learn that Tetsu’s eight-year-old sister, Kimi, refuses to use the open-stall bathrooms at the relocation center unless a pillowcase is over her head, blocking out sights and sounds, to Tetsu’s adjustment as man of the house after his father’s arrest, readers are immersed in the dusty, barren world of The Gila River Relocation Center, Rivers, AZ. Hope appears with new neighbors Kyo, Ben, and their father, all of whom share Tetsu’s passion for baseball, and they are soon engaged in a project to build a diamond in the desert. A team is assembled, and the author interweaves the spirit and familiarity the game brings with the grim reality of the life of the interned, culminating in Kimi’s disappearance and recovery and the Gila River baseball team’s win of the Arizona State Championship. Moving the story forward with fluid language and vivid imagery, Fitzmaurice hits home with this important piece of historical fiction.

Kirkus Reviews, Dec. 2011:

Incorporating information and specific incidents drawn from interviews with former camp residents, Fitzmaurice has Tetsu describe his experiences and feelings in restrained vignettes threaded with poetic language‚ “Kimi looked at me with those eyes that always found the good part of things.”

A simply drawn picture of a shameful chapter in this country’s race relations, sharing a theme with Ken Mochizuki’s classic, angry Baseball Saved Us (1993) but less an indictment than a portrait of patience in adversity. (afterword, source list) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Publishers Weekly, Feb 2012

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, 13-year old Testu Kishi, his mother, and younger sister, Kimi, are imprisoned along with other Japanese Americans in the Gila River Relocation center in Rivers, Arizona, an internment camp. Tetsu’s father, meanwhile, has been sent away for questioning. Based on actual events, Fitzmaurice’s second novel spans three years, divided into seasons. The brief vignettes that compose each section detail the harsh climate and conditions: the latrine has no walls, there is initially no school; the food makes Tetsu ill; and scorpions, rattlesnakes, and dust devils are abundant. When Tetsu befriends some boys who share his love of baseball, they start a team and build a ball field,rekindling Tetsu’s hope. But after Kimi falls ill, Tetsu is once again compelled to fill his father’s shoes. Tetsu provides intimate first-person narration throughout, as Fitzmaurice captures the dismal circumstances and somber mood of the camp, but also the much-needed hope that baseball provided for a few of those who were forced to live there. Ages 10 and up.

“A solid, affecting choice for multicultural and WWII studies, with resources for student research appended.” —Booklist


“This book provides a striking glimpse at internment camp life and would fit well with the study of World War II or human rights.” —Library Media Connection