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In a Flash

By: Donna Jo Napoli

In 1940, when Simona is eight and her sister, Carolina, is five, their father becomes the cook to the Italian ambassador to Japan, and the family leaves Italy for Tokyo. The girls learn perfect Japanese, make friends, and begin to love life in their new home. But soon Japan is engaged in a world war. In 1943, when all Italians in Japan are confined to internment camps as enemy aliens, Papà and the girls are forced to part, and Simona and Carolina embark on a dramatic journey. Anyone who aids them could be arrested for treason. All the sisters have is each other: their wits, courage, and resilience, and the hope that they will find people who see them not as the enemy, but simply as children trying to survive.

In this gripping, deeply moving story, Donna Jo Napoli gives readers an unforgettable and authentic new perspective on World War II.

Postscript. Notes on research. Bibliography. 

ISBN: 9781101934142

JLG Release: Feb 2021


Sensitive Areas: Violence: War/Harsh Realities of War , Discrimination: Racial Insensitivity/Racism
Topics: Sisters , World War II (1939–1945) , Survival , Italians in Japan , Twentieth-century Japanese history , Internment camps , Identity

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Horn Book

Narrator Simona is eight years old in 1940, and her younger sister five, when they leave their home outside Rome for Tokyo—their father has been hired as chef at the Italian embassy. The girls must quickly learn a new language and new customs—and although they come to love Japan, as Westerners their friends are few. As WWII approaches and then Narrator Simona is eight years old in 1940, and her younger sister five, when they leave their home outside Rome for Tokyo—their father has been hired as chef at the Italian embassy. The girls must quickly learn a new language and new customs—and although they come to love Japan, as Westerners their friends are few. As WWII approaches and then intensifies, life in Tokyo deteriorates, with food and clothing scarcities; classmates’ brothers and fathers lost to war; school concerned with propaganda rather than learning. Then, in 1943, Italy surrenders—and Simona’s family is now the enemy. From here, the novel becomes a survival story. The girls are separated from their father and sent to a starvation-level internment camp; escape and are rescued by a household of anti-war activists; they return, after the women’s home is raided, to Tokyo, where they find refuge with a blind washerwoman; and finally, fatefully, end up in a Catholic mission in Hiroshima. Throughout, what saves them are Simona’s strength and determination but also the sisters’ assimilation into and respect for Japanese culture: at the camp, their politeness earns them life-saving tidbits from the kitchen; needing to buy train tickets back to Tokyo, they speak the language so well they pass for Japanese. Simona’s eight-year-old voice is the same as her adult voice (the novel ends with a final chapter set in 1965), but readers may overlook this quibble as they immerse themselves in Napoli’s story, told with immediacy, compassion, and nuance. A note describing the author’s research and an extensive bibliography are appended. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

Book Details

ISBN

9781101934142

First Release

February 2021

Genre

Fiction

Dewey Classification

F

Trim Size

8 3/10" x 5 1/2"

Page Count

400

Accelerated Reader

Level 3.9; Points: 12;

Scholastic Reading Counts

N/A

Lexile

Level 550L

Format

Print Book

Edition

Library edition with trade jacket added

Publisher

Wendy Lamb Books

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Violence: War/Harsh Realities of War , Discrimination: Racial Insensitivity/Racism

Topics

Sisters, World War II (1939–1945), Survival, Italians in Japan, Twentieth-century Japanese history, Internment camps, Identity,

Standard MARC Record

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Cover Art

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