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Hunt for the Bamboo Rat
Cover of Hunt for the Bamboo Rat
Hunt for the Bamboo Rat
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“A gripping saga of wartime survival.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Based on a true story, this World War II novel by Scott O’Dell Award winner Graham Salisbury tells how...
“A gripping saga of wartime survival.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Based on a true story, this World War II novel by Scott O’Dell Award winner Graham Salisbury tells how...
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  • “A gripping saga of wartime survival.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred
     
    Based on a true story, this World War II novel by Scott O’Dell Award winner Graham Salisbury tells how Zenji, 17, is sent from Hawaii to the Philippines to spy on the Japanese.


    Zenji Watanabe was born in Hawaii. He’s an American, but the Japanese wouldn’t know it by the look of him. And that’s exactly what the US government is counting on.
     
    Because he speaks both English and Japanese perfectly, the army recruits Zenji for a top-secret mission to spy on the Japanese. If they discover his true identity, he’ll be treated as a traitor and executed on the spot.
     
    As World War II boils over in the Pacific, Zenji is caught behind enemy lines. But even though his Japanese heritage is his death warrant, it’s also his key to outwitting the enemy and finding the strength to face the terrors of battle,...

Excerpts-

  • From the book Zenji Watanabe was in the middle of an early-morning daydream as he walked to his job at Honolulu Harbor. He was trying to imagine himself as a Buddhist priest like his teachers at Japanese school when a rat leaped out of a garbage can just ahead, sending the metal lid clanging to the sidewalk.

    He jumped back and adjusted his glasses. "Crazy rat!"

    Late for work, he was cutting through Chinatown, hoping he could make it without any trouble.

    But the rat changed that.

    Three Chinese guys sitting on their heels two blocks down looked his way.

    "Oh, man," Zenji whispered.

    It was August 1941, and in Honolulu tensions between the Chinese and Japanese had risen like fire-spewing dragons because of what had happened in Nanking, China. In 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army killed over a hundred thousand innocent Chinese civilians. Maybe even more. To Zenji it was a tragedy. But some patriotic Japanese immigrants had publicly cheered Japan's success. Anger at Japan still smoldered in Chinatown.

    The three guys were about his age, seventeen. They seemed as surprised to see him as he was to see them.

    One guy had hair that hung past his shoulders. "Hey!" He sprang to his feet.

    The others got up, shooting Zenji dirty looks.

    Zenji pretended not to see them, and turned casually down the street to his left. The second he was out of sight, he ran.

    Hide—an open door, a dark alley, a low window!

    Where?

    He spotted a rusted fire escape and climbed it, hoping it would hold. One floor up, he punched through a window screen and tumbled into somebody's bedroom.

    He scrambled to his feet and glanced around.

    Empty . . . except for the biggest bed he'd ever seen. And a dresser with a huge mirror, a red velvet chair, a nightstand with a frilly lamp.

    A hotel?

    He edged back up to the window and peeked out. Long-hair guy ran into view.

    Zenji stepped back.

    "Man," he whispered. "Now what?"

    What would his teacher-priests do in this mess? They believed that if you had compassion for people in your heart, everything would turn out well. Zenji wasn't so sure about that.

    He decided they'd do one of two things: use kendo, their swordsmanship with bamboo sticks, or stand firm and peacefully face the problem.

    Zenji didn't know kendo.

    Someone in the street shouted, "He's here! I smell um."

    The bedroom door flew open and slammed against the wall. A Chinese man the size of a garbage truck stood in the doorway with a baseball bat. He looked hard at Zenji and quickly took in every corner of the room.

    Zenji staggered back. "It's not what you think, mister."

    The big man pointed the bat at him as he came into the room, circling to his right, his eyes never leaving Zenji.

    "I didn't mean to break in. . . . Some guys down on the street chased me. I was just walking to my job."

    The man moved close enough to hammer Zenji's brains to mush.

    Zenji put his palms out, trying to stop him. "I . . . I just got a job at the harbor, and—"

    "You know what this place is?" the man snapped. "You really want to bus' in here? What's your name?"

    Zenji looked for a way out. There wasn't one. "Zenji . . . Watanabe."

    The big man studied him, then lowered the bat.

    He stepped over to the window and looked out. "I don't see nobody."

    "They're out there. Three of them. I didn't do anything to them."

    The big man grunted. "You Japanee, that's what you did. Come. You gotta get out of Chinatown. Stupid to come here."

    Zenji followed him down the hall. Four young women stuck...

About the Author-

  • Graham Salisbury’s family has lived in the Hawaiian Islands since the early 1800s. He grew up on Oahu and Hawaii and graduated from California State University. He received an MFA from Vermont College of Norwich University, where he was a member of the founding faculty of the MFA program in writing for children. He lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.
       Graham Salisbury’s books have won many prizes. Blue Skin of the Sea won the Bank Street Child Study Association Children’s Book Award; Under the Blood-Red Sun won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, the Oregon Book Award, Hawaii’s Nene Award, and the California Young Reader Medal; Shark Bait won the Oregon Book Award and a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor; Lord of the Deep won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. He has also written the Calvin Coconut series for younger readers. 
       Graham Salisbury is a recipient of the John Unterecker Award for Fiction and the PEN/Norma Klein Award. Visit him online at grahamsalisbury.com.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from September 1, 2014
    A novel that begins before Pearl Harbor sends a Japanese-American teen on a top-secret mission to the Philippines. Born in Hawaii of Japanese parents, 17-year-old Zenji Watanabe is fluent in English and Japanese. In August 1941, his high school ROTC commander recruits him for the U.S. Army Corps of Intelligence Police, and he is sent to Manila to mingle with Japanese businessmen and collect information. When the Japanese army invades, Zenji is taken prisoner. Steadfastly maintaining his cover as a civilian, he refuses to admit that he is the Bamboo Rat, his cover name, and is tortured by the Japanese secret police. He eventually finds himself working for a Japanese colonel as a translator and houseboy and is able to use the position to help the Filipino underground. When the U.S. forces return, he escapes into the jungle, surviving despite a wound and starvation so extreme that he eats raw rat. His strength derives from his love of family and country coupled with his belief in honor, courage and forgiveness. Salisbury has once again crafted a fine novel, based on an actual person, about first-generation Americans of Japanese descent and the clash of culture and national identity that World War II accentuated. Written in short, rapid-fire paragraphs that move the plot along at a brisk pace, the story will leave readers spellbound. A gripping saga of wartime survival. (maps, author's note, glossary, resources) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2014

    Gr 5 Up-Zenji Watanabe is Nisei, an American with Japanese parents, living in Honolulu on the eve of World War II. As tensions are rising between his parents' homeland and his own, his old ROTC commander offers him secret work away from his home that will utilize his particular language skills. This title is a welcome new angle in historical fiction on the Japanese-American experience during the war, and it is based on a true story. Geared toward middle grade readers, Salisbury is careful not to linger on the more unpleasant and violent aspects of Zenji's time as a POW. Fast-paced and compelling, this title will be enjoyed by voracious and reluctant readers.-L. Lee Butler, Stoughton High School, MA

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    September 15, 2014
    Grades 7-10 Zenji Watanabe, 17, is a first-generation Japanese-American living in Hawaii. Based on the story of real-life figure Richard Sakakida, this chronicle introduces readers to the life of a young Japanese American just as Japan and America are becoming combatants in WWII. Zenji's perfect Japanese and English make him a valuable asset, and he is suddenly recruited as a special undercover agent in the U.S. Army Corps of Intelligence Police. Salisbury grew up in Hawaii, and he tells the dangerous tale of Zenji's four-year mission in sharp detail. Throughout, Zenji proves himself to be thoughtful and, important for his ancient cultural heritage, honorable. Fans of Salisbury's other titles in the Prisoners of the Empire historical fiction series will relish the suspense that he skillfully develops and resolves. Give this also to readers who enjoy movies like Argo.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

  • Horn Book Review "...the history is fascinating, and Zenji is a fictional hero readers will long remember."

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    Random House Children's Books
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