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Review: Aleutian Sparrow

May 26, 2009

Aleutian Sparrow

I listened to the audio version of Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse on a recent trip.  I found the story hard to follow, so I’m providing the back of the box blurb:

In June of 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 Vera’s story, but it is woven from the same fabric as the stories of displaced peoples throughout history.  It chronicles the struggle to survive and to keep community and heritage intact despite harsh conditions in an alien environment.

This book contains a lot of Aleutian terms, so I had a lot of trouble following it.  There is a verbal glossary at the end, but it didn’t really do me any good after the book was over.  I’m not sure it would have helped at the beginning either.  I think I would have enjoyed the written version of this book more than the audio.

Having said that, I found the author’s note and an interview with Harriet Hope that followed the story fascinating, since  I had never heard of the internment of the Aleut people during World War II.   Harriet was five years old when she was evacuated with her mother and siblings.  Her father was left behind since he was white and the Postmaster.  When the families returned three years later, many of them found their houses destroyed, by the military who were sent to protect them, but Harriet’s father was able to watch over theirs.  This site has more information on the Aleutian internment.  The U. S. Government issued an official apology in 1988 and awarded each survivor the sum of $12,000.

Karen Hesse has written more than fifteen books for children.  She won the 1998 Newbery Medal for The Music of Dolphins.  She won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002.

24 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2009 7:25 am

    This book sounds really interesting. I wonder if it would have made a difference if you had read it versus listening to it!

    • May 26, 2009 7:45 am

      I think I would have enjoyed the written version of the book more, but I’m not sure it includes the interview, which I found fascinating.

  2. May 26, 2009 7:47 am

    I think I would like this. I bet having the glossary in the print version would have helped. I wonder if there are maps, too. As much as I love audio, some books are better read in print.

  3. May 26, 2009 9:19 am

    I have a used copy of this book that I picked up last summer, but I haven’t read it yet. When I get home tonight I’ll pull it out and look for maps, glossary, and interview. I’m kind of surprised that the author is not the reader. I’ve heard Karen Hesse read parts of OUT OF THE DUST, for which she won the Newberry Medal, and really enjoyed her voice and rhythm.

    Amazing, isn’t it, what has gone on in our own history that most of us don’t know about!

  4. May 26, 2009 9:35 am

    Loved that cover. I want to read this!

  5. May 26, 2009 11:16 am

    This actually sounds like it could be very interesting. I too think that reading it in novel form would make all the difference.

  6. May 26, 2009 11:16 am

    Another WWII book to add to my list of must reads! I hadn’t heard of this one before. Thanks for the great review, Kathy.

  7. May 26, 2009 12:38 pm

    I’ve been trying to sort through what makes some books better for me to read than listen to. I think I have a much easier time figuring out what to do with words in an unfamiliar language when looking at them vs. hearing them.

    Thanks for the pointer to this book. One of my book clubs has an ongoing fascination with WWII, this might be an interesting read for that group.

  8. May 26, 2009 2:47 pm

    That’s such a pretty cover! And the book sounds like something I would be interested in. I don’t know much about what happened to the Aleut people during WWII.

  9. May 26, 2009 2:49 pm

    After our visit to Alaska and my interest in World War II, this is one I’d like to read, but not listen to.

  10. May 26, 2009 3:00 pm

    Too bad the audio version didn’t come with a printed glossary, it sounds like it would have made a big difference. I still haven’t figured out how to pick a good audio book for myself. There are so many factors to weigh in.

  11. stacybuckeye permalink
    May 26, 2009 3:06 pm

    Some books are just not the smae in audio form. Sorry it didn’t work out for you.

  12. May 26, 2009 5:53 pm

    It does sound like a book that would be better in print rather than audio. I always worry a little about that when listening to audio of an author for 1st time.

  13. May 26, 2009 7:45 pm

    Thanks for making reading so much fun!

    http://thebookresort.blogspot.com/2009/05/reading-is-fun.html

  14. May 26, 2009 7:46 pm

    No wonder I can’t get any kids to read this!! I’ll have to get it off the shelves for the summer to read!! Thanks for the great review!

  15. May 26, 2009 8:19 pm

    Being born and raised in Alaska, I think I’d rather enjoy this one (and have the added bonus of understanding quite a few Aleut words, lol). Thanks for bringing this one to my attention….I might have missed it otherwise!

  16. readingextravaganza permalink
    May 26, 2009 8:46 pm

    That’s the danger with audio books, they might just be much better read than listened to. It seems like audio versions is the thing to go for nowaday and all the authors have it along with the book but some books should not have been recorded as it takes away from their quality.

  17. May 26, 2009 11:45 pm

    This is a new one for me – it sounds very interesting.

  18. May 26, 2009 11:55 pm

    I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds incredibly interesting. Thanks for the review!

  19. May 27, 2009 1:25 am

    I have heard of this one but I haven’t read any reviews. Your review makes me want to give it a shot. I think I might like the written version. Thanks.

  20. May 28, 2009 9:25 pm

    I really liked her book Music of Dolphins. I don’t know much about the Aleuts- except weren’t they the ones who carried away the girl’s people in Island of the Blue Dolphins? and I just very recently read some things about them in Adventures of a Zoologist… It sounds really interesting.

  21. June 3, 2009 10:07 pm

    Did I not already comment on this one? Hmm, coulda swore I did because I ran to add this book to my wish list. After all my years in Alaska I of course have a fondness for AK regional lit. and I don’t know how I missed out on this book. I am so glad you posted a review. I wonder how many Aleutian terms I would know?

  22. June 17, 2009 12:08 pm

    Sorry the audio version didn’t work for you. Sounds like an interesting book, though, and I’ll have to keep it in mind. I’ll add a link to your review on War Through the Generations.

    –Anna

  23. December 9, 2009 11:04 am

    We’ve posted your review on War Through the Generations.

    –Anna

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