Aladdin paperbacks
Simon & Schuster

June 2005

$14.95 AU

160p pb

ISBN: 978-1416903277

fp October 2003

Aleutian Sparrow

Karen Hesse

from the book...

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 Aluets responded to the sorrows of upheaval and dislocation. This is Vera's story, but it is woven from the same fabric of 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.


In a luminous novel of unrhymed verse, Newberry winner Karen Hesse brings to light this little-known episode from America's past.

If you have read this verse novel and would like to share your opinion of it with other readers please send your review or comments to YARR-A

When Japanese forces attack the Aleutian Islands US military forces move the people from their native homes into a dense forest on the mainland. This is not like the area where they used to live and as such causes many of the Aleutians to die. Although the government supports them they aren’t treated very well. The food they get is always the same and they aren’t given houses to live in but have to make them. The Aleutians are treated very poorly.

I really enjoyed this book and found it very entertaining; it gives you an idea of how the army treated the Aleutians. Until I read this book I had no idea about any of these things ever happening. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to teenagers.

Ben, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

Aleutian Sparrow told in verse, is a saddening account of the trials and tribulations of the Aleutians during the Second World War. The Aleutians, an island people, were evacuated from their islands in the early stages of the war for their defensible positions. American and Japanese soldiers desecrated and destroyed the island’s’ beauty; meanwhile the Aleutians were forced to live in squalor, moving from place to place.

This heart-wrenching story is told from the perspective of a young girl named Vera. Her innocent and uncomprehending view of what goes on around her is touching. It throws into contrast the more ‘civilised’ members of the community - their attitudes to communal life, the traditional ways, and the cheechako (Aleutian word for “stupid southerners”) wants and needs. In fact, one thing that made me physically wince in the story was the poem Hot Spring Memory; the uncaring way Vera’s mother talks with her feels like a proverbial slap in the face. That she would rather read a whitey magazine than talk to her daughter shows just how much she cares for her.

Aleutian Sparrow is a fiction based on true events, and it makes you wonder how a people could put up with such treatment. Even though they returned home at the end, one in four Aleutians had died. Karen Hesse has out done herself - a deep, saddening verse novel that uses free verse in a creative and complimentary fashion.

Connor, Year 10, Canberra, Australia

Aleutian Sparrow is a verse novel about a girl called Vera who went to see her mother in Kashega. While she is visiting her mother she visited some of her friends there as well. They are called Pari and Alfred. Kashega is in the Aleutian Islands next to Alaska. This story was true.

It is set in the time of the Second World War. The Japanese people attacked the Aleutian Islands and they destroyed them. The Aleutian people were helped by the USA troops. The USA troops told the people to move away from the Islands until the fighting has stopped so they are moved to other cities in Alaska and they are treated poorly.

I thought the story was sad book and it is best for readers around 13.

Gary, Year 8, Canberra, Australia

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