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Music for Alice

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As a girl, Alice loved to dance, but the rhythms of her life offered little opportunity for a foxtrot, let alone a waltz. World War II erupted soon after she was married. Alice and her husband, along with many other Japanese Americans, were forced to leave their homes and report to assembly centers around the country. Undaunted, Alice and her husband learned to make the mo As a girl, Alice loved to dance, but the rhythms of her life offered little opportunity for a foxtrot, let alone a waltz. World War II erupted soon after she was married. Alice and her husband, along with many other Japanese Americans, were forced to leave their homes and report to assembly centers around the country. Undaunted, Alice and her husband learned to make the most of every circumstance, from their stall in the old stockyard in Portland to the decrepit farm in the Oregon desert, with its field of stones. Like a pair of skilled dancers, they sidestepped adversity to land gracefully amid golden opportunity. Together they turned a barren wasteland into a field of endless flowers. Such achievements did not come without effort and sacrifice, though, and Alice often thought her dancing days were long behind her. But as her story testifies, life is full of changes . . . In this striking book, Allen Say introduces readers to the remarkable story of the life of a woman whose perseverance and resilience serve as an inspirational reminder that dreams can be fulfilled, even when least expected.


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As a girl, Alice loved to dance, but the rhythms of her life offered little opportunity for a foxtrot, let alone a waltz. World War II erupted soon after she was married. Alice and her husband, along with many other Japanese Americans, were forced to leave their homes and report to assembly centers around the country. Undaunted, Alice and her husband learned to make the mo As a girl, Alice loved to dance, but the rhythms of her life offered little opportunity for a foxtrot, let alone a waltz. World War II erupted soon after she was married. Alice and her husband, along with many other Japanese Americans, were forced to leave their homes and report to assembly centers around the country. Undaunted, Alice and her husband learned to make the most of every circumstance, from their stall in the old stockyard in Portland to the decrepit farm in the Oregon desert, with its field of stones. Like a pair of skilled dancers, they sidestepped adversity to land gracefully amid golden opportunity. Together they turned a barren wasteland into a field of endless flowers. Such achievements did not come without effort and sacrifice, though, and Alice often thought her dancing days were long behind her. But as her story testifies, life is full of changes . . . In this striking book, Allen Say introduces readers to the remarkable story of the life of a woman whose perseverance and resilience serve as an inspirational reminder that dreams can be fulfilled, even when least expected.

30 review for Music for Alice

  1. 4 out of 5

    Shauna Masura

    Rarely does a children's book invoke the kind of sincere reverence that is exhibited by Allen Say's breathtaking story, Music For Alice. Poetic imagery melds with quiet prose to produce a well-crafted and simply flawless book. Our protagonist, Alice, retells her life story- forced labor during the time of Japanese internment camps, the modest farm bought with government loans, the hard years when their harvests couldn't sell, and the years when Alice and her husband turned their portion of deser Rarely does a children's book invoke the kind of sincere reverence that is exhibited by Allen Say's breathtaking story, Music For Alice. Poetic imagery melds with quiet prose to produce a well-crafted and simply flawless book. Our protagonist, Alice, retells her life story- forced labor during the time of Japanese internment camps, the modest farm bought with government loans, the hard years when their harvests couldn't sell, and the years when Alice and her husband turned their portion of desert into a carpet of flowers. The illustrations are as realistic as they come- every wrinkle that lines a drawing of Alice's face is executed with precision and extreme care. The pictures, presented on a full page, reflect personal photos, and each accompanying page of text reads like a whisper, a modest blessing from those who came before us and lived much harder lives. Music For Alice is a necessary tale for a generation who feel entitled to comfort and obsess over following their passions. This book maintains that there is value in a well-lived life, no matter where it takes place, no matter the circumstances. Highly recommended for all elementary students.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Lovely, spare illustrations of a Japanese woman's history of making the best of her interment experience. Doesn't dwell on the deprivations her race afforded her at that time, but instead shows the triumph of spirit that allows her to thrive, along with her husband, as they create a successful flower farm in the midst of war and loss.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Josiah

    It's easy when reading Allen Say's picture books to forget about the incredible illustrations, because his writing is so deep, and focused. I suggest for those that will read Music for Alice as their first encounter with Allen Say's work to make a concerted effort to appreciate the author's splendid art, because it's surprisingly easy to overlook it. Music for Alice is a very realistic look at the life journey that one Japanese-American girl faces, coming of age as a young adult just as the da It's easy when reading Allen Say's picture books to forget about the incredible illustrations, because his writing is so deep, and focused. I suggest for those that will read Music for Alice as their first encounter with Allen Say's work to make a concerted effort to appreciate the author's splendid art, because it's surprisingly easy to overlook it. Music for Alice is a very realistic look at the life journey that one Japanese-American girl faces, coming of age as a young adult just as the darkness of World War II is emerging as a major storm on the American skyline. Because Alice and her husband Mark are of Japanese descent, after the bombing at Pearl Harbor they are treated with official suspicion by the U.S. government. To avoid lockup in one of the infamous internment camps set up for Japanese-Americans of the time, the couple signs on as laborers for a white farmer whose human resources have been diminished because of the war. The setup is harsh, but Alice and Mark get off very easily compared to so many others in their situation. The newly experienced husband-and-wife farmers set up their own farm and work hard to establish themselves anew, meeting alternatively with success and failure along the way. Many, many years later, as an old woman, Alice returns to the little farmhouse in Portland where she and her husband had worked so hard to preserve their dreams; and, for once, Alice is able to see the fruition of a modest personal dream of her own that she had let go of long ago. This is a distinguished story that really gives a good picture of the hardships faced by many Japanese-Americans during the 1940s, a time when they could be suspected of treason for no other reason than the color of their skin and shape of their eyes. Allen Say has shed light on this piece of history well, in the tradition of author Florence Crannell Means. Music for Alice really reads a lot more like a miniature novel than a regular picture book, and I would strongly consider giving it two and a half stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Priscilla

    The book tells a story about a young Japanese girl named Alice, whom grew up on a farm and loved to dance. She gets married to a man named Mark and moved to Seattle. During WWII, they were forced to leave their home and go to work in assembly lines in Oregon because they were Japanese Americans. Alice worked in the fields and slept in a tent. After the work in the fields were completed, she was let go but would have to remain in the country. She didn't feel free at all. She rented a house from a The book tells a story about a young Japanese girl named Alice, whom grew up on a farm and loved to dance. She gets married to a man named Mark and moved to Seattle. During WWII, they were forced to leave their home and go to work in assembly lines in Oregon because they were Japanese Americans. Alice worked in the fields and slept in a tent. After the work in the fields were completed, she was let go but would have to remain in the country. She didn't feel free at all. She rented a house from a farmer and began a farm. Her first couple of harvests didn't bring her any success until her husband comes home with gladioli, a flower. The gladioli grew beautiful and attracted people from all over the world. Alice realized it didn't make her completely happy. They sold the farm and went on to live in California, where Mark died. Alice moved back to Portland where Mark and her started their lives. She revisited their old Gladioli farm and realized she could dance again. And that is what she continued to do.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    A Japanese-American immigrant story of love, persecution, hardship, loss, and finding peace. Say's watercolor illustrations are lovely and haunting. I wonder if he was painting from snapshots; some of them have figures standing before a scene as if posing for a camera. I like his dilapidated buildings.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sidney McQuade

    I loved this story. It has beautiful illustrations and a wonderful multicultural aspect to it. It is a sweet lesson of learning to do the things you love, even when life distracts you from whatever they might be.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stacie

    Allan Say creates such beautiful books about amazing people who are wonderful to meet. Alice is no exception. An immigrant story we can all learn from.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Wilson

    This story is about Alice who is an Asian American immigrant in the US. In the beginning Alice tells us that she loves to dance but growing up she did not have the opportunity to. After Pearl Harbor, she and all of her family was forced to move to camps where they would be sent back to their home contrys. Alice was very worried though, the US was all that she knew. She and her husband got lucky though, instead of having to leave they were hired as indentured servants to work on a farm. they work This story is about Alice who is an Asian American immigrant in the US. In the beginning Alice tells us that she loves to dance but growing up she did not have the opportunity to. After Pearl Harbor, she and all of her family was forced to move to camps where they would be sent back to their home contrys. Alice was very worried though, the US was all that she knew. She and her husband got lucky though, instead of having to leave they were hired as indentured servants to work on a farm. they worked hard day and night and then at the end of their term, they were given land to start all over. This inspiring story then tells of how Alice and her husband made a life of their own by farming. When the great depression hit, farming was no longer profitable so they started growing flowers. This was a great buisness for the two. People flew in from everywhere to get flowers. The story ends with Alices husband dying and she ends up selling her farm. Alice is at peace with this though and finally decides that she has worked hard enough for her stay in the US and now she will dance like she has never dance before. I really liked this story. I think it is very indicitive of how many immigrants are treated when they come to the US. Alice and her husband were very strong individuals who worked hard for everthing they had. I think that by reading such book to children will be a great way to discuss Pearl Harbor and even events like 911 and the things that happen as an after effect. Great book to share about multicultural awareness.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicolewinter2011

    Illustrator: Allen Say Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company Year: 2004 Interest Level: 3-5 Reading Level: 2-3 This picture book has beautiful illustrations to guide the reader through the story. The title is a little misleading, being that the dancing is a very minor part of the story. I wonder if the editor ended up chopping a lot of the music/dancing element of the story. The story is based on the life of Alice Sumida and her husband who were given the "opportunity" to avoid the detainment camps by Illustrator: Allen Say Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company Year: 2004 Interest Level: 3-5 Reading Level: 2-3 This picture book has beautiful illustrations to guide the reader through the story. The title is a little misleading, being that the dancing is a very minor part of the story. I wonder if the editor ended up chopping a lot of the music/dancing element of the story. The story is based on the life of Alice Sumida and her husband who were given the "opportunity" to avoid the detainment camps by farming with a loan from the United States government. I was unaware of this "option" during this difficult time period in U.S. history. I thought that there was only placement in detainment camps. The story does show how determination can lead you out of an experience of despair. However, it ultimately is still a sad story. I think if children in grades 3-5 are learning about discrimination, this could be included, but since it doesn't really focus on the detainment camps, it may not be the best. I also think it could be used when studying about World War II, but that is usually covered in high school and there are probably better books for students to read to go along with World War II for that age.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I enjoyed this book I thought that it was a good way to show the internment camps to younger ages. I really enjoyed the moral behind the story that you can never give up on your dreams because something can happen when you least expect it. Summary: The Japanese-Americans, Alice and her husband were taken away to internment camps during the World War II. Alice always loved to dance and when in these camps she did not believe she could. This is a great story about how life is truly full of changes I enjoyed this book I thought that it was a good way to show the internment camps to younger ages. I really enjoyed the moral behind the story that you can never give up on your dreams because something can happen when you least expect it. Summary: The Japanese-Americans, Alice and her husband were taken away to internment camps during the World War II. Alice always loved to dance and when in these camps she did not believe she could. This is a great story about how life is truly full of changes and you have to make the best with what you have because you never know if that will be it. With my first graders I would use this book and then talk about never giving up on things we want to be or do. And have students make goals of things they want to accomplish and then steps on how they can achieve this goal. I would inform students that there are going to be bumps in the road sometimes that might create a setback but you have to know to get right back up to fix things. http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/col... http://janmstore.com/musicforalice.html

  11. 5 out of 5

    Meltha

    Covering the time period during WWII when Japanese internment camps were used in the U.S., this book follows the story of a Japanese-American couple who took work as farmers and eventually became flower bulb sellers with a highly successful company. It touches on the terrible things that happened during this time, and there is sadness and bad treatment, but the protagonists overcome their situation through their determination. The story is focused pretty much exclusively on adults, and I'm not s Covering the time period during WWII when Japanese internment camps were used in the U.S., this book follows the story of a Japanese-American couple who took work as farmers and eventually became flower bulb sellers with a highly successful company. It touches on the terrible things that happened during this time, and there is sadness and bad treatment, but the protagonists overcome their situation through their determination. The story is focused pretty much exclusively on adults, and I'm not sure about the interest level of the average third or fourth grader here, but the story is well written, and the illustrations, originally mostly in sepias but then bursting into color with the arrival of the gladiola bulbs, is very clear and by the end nearly photographic. The story does need the illustrations in order to have its full emotional impact, and in the end, Alice makes rooom in her life for dancing again in a symbolic victory.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I read this for my class project too! This was a story based on the real life of Alice Sumida. She was a Japanese American woman, born in San Francisco, during WWII. She and her husband got rounded up to be taken to an internment camp, but then they got out of it by offering to help an American farmer in the fields. They end up buying fields of their own and growing crops to sell back to the government. It was interesting, because I didn't know that there was a way to get out of the internment cam I read this for my class project too! This was a story based on the real life of Alice Sumida. She was a Japanese American woman, born in San Francisco, during WWII. She and her husband got rounded up to be taken to an internment camp, but then they got out of it by offering to help an American farmer in the fields. They end up buying fields of their own and growing crops to sell back to the government. It was interesting, because I didn't know that there was a way to get out of the internment camps. It was also really sad because the lady's husband died as a young adult; it looks like he was maybe in his 50s. At the end she goes back to where their farm fields were, and she gets happy and dances. I didn't really get that, but I did get an overwhelming feeling of sadness. This isn't a read-aloud unless you teach upper elementary.

  13. 4 out of 5

    A

    Alice grew up on a farm in California. After she finished college she met her husband Mark. After they were married they moved to Seattle, Washington and started a business selling seeds to farmers. Soon afterwards the government issued laws for all Japanese Americans to be sent to the internment camps. While they were waiting to be relocated they heard if they would volunteer to work on the farms of some white American farmers they would not have to go to the internment camps. The story goes on Alice grew up on a farm in California. After she finished college she met her husband Mark. After they were married they moved to Seattle, Washington and started a business selling seeds to farmers. Soon afterwards the government issued laws for all Japanese Americans to be sent to the internment camps. While they were waiting to be relocated they heard if they would volunteer to work on the farms of some white American farmers they would not have to go to the internment camps. The story goes on with the ups and downs of life continuing. All the while, Alice only wanted to dance although it was never the time or place. By the end of the story we learn that Mark had passed away and Alice returned to the place they lived when they were first married. This makes her happy to think of him and then she decides it is time to dance. Grades 3 and up.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alexandria Hiam

    Alice grew up on a farm in California. After she finished college she met her husband Mark. After they were married they moved to Seattle, Washington and started a business selling seeds to farmers. Soon afterwards the government issued laws for all Japanese Americans to be sent to the internment camps. While they were waiting to be relocated they heard if they would volunteer to work on the farms of some white American farmers they would not have to go to the internment camps. The story goes on Alice grew up on a farm in California. After she finished college she met her husband Mark. After they were married they moved to Seattle, Washington and started a business selling seeds to farmers. Soon afterwards the government issued laws for all Japanese Americans to be sent to the internment camps. While they were waiting to be relocated they heard if they would volunteer to work on the farms of some white American farmers they would not have to go to the internment camps. The story goes on with the ups and downs of life continuing. All the while, Alice only wanted to dance although it was never the time or place. By the end of the story we learn that Mark had passed away and Alice returned to the place they lived when they were first married. This makes her happy to think of him and then she decides it is time to dance. Grades 3 and up.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    The illustrations in this book are absolutely gorgeous. I just love Allen Say's drawings. They are so realistic, and yet soft. I could look at his artwork all day. This was a sad story, but at the same time, I wasn't majorly depressed. I felt that it was justified in its sadness and that it still had enough moments of hope to counter the sadness. I would recommend this book. *Taken from my book reviews blog: http://reviewsatmse.blogspot.com/2009... The illustrations in this book are absolutely gorgeous. I just love Allen Say's drawings. They are so realistic, and yet soft. I could look at his artwork all day. This was a sad story, but at the same time, I wasn't majorly depressed. I felt that it was justified in its sadness and that it still had enough moments of hope to counter the sadness. I would recommend this book. *Taken from my book reviews blog: http://reviewsatmse.blogspot.com/2009...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    This is a wonderful picture book that shows another view of the Japanese Internment through the eyes of a young woman. It is based on the story of Alice Sumida. In the midst of very difficult times, Alice and her husband worked hard, had hope, and didn't give up. (Here's a video of her https://vimeo.com/98965906 and another great video here http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/inte...) I would definitely share her videos with students along with the books. This is a wonderful picture book that shows another view of the Japanese Internment through the eyes of a young woman. It is based on the story of Alice Sumida. In the midst of very difficult times, Alice and her husband worked hard, had hope, and didn't give up. (Here's a video of her https://vimeo.com/98965906 and another great video here http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/inte...) I would definitely share her videos with students along with the books.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Heidi-Marie

    I liked the illustrations. They were simple but they conveyed a lot. Parts of the story were interesting, for the fact that they dealt with parts of history that are not often taught at a child's age. But the progression of the story seemed to jump ahead too much and the resolution was kind of... odd to me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Terrie Andrews

    Description: A wonderful story about a Japanese American who grows up and then lives through the booming of Pearl Harbor. This story is about how her family was able to take a risk and thrive during this time under difficult circumstances. Implementation ideas: 4th- 6th grades; Social Studies World War II units.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cate Mueller

    Alice is a Japanese American who loves to dance, however World War Two erupted shortly after she was married, and Alice and her husband were forced to leave their home. The young couple was forced to report to assemble centers around the country, however none of this bringing Alice down. Alice develops a remarkable life by following her dreams with her husband in Portland, Oregon.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    this book brought a tear to my eye. the story is about a japanese american couple living in america at the time of WWII. It tells their story about the life they lived during and after the war. It was a touching tale.

  21. 4 out of 5

    ABC

    I hate to give an Allen Say book only two stars. I just don't think this would appeal to many children. It is the story a woman and her husband who make a success of farming gladiolas. I think if it had been told from the point of view of a child, it would have been more interesting.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

    Beautiful and poignant story of Japanese American woman who lived through WWII internment, love the details of her farming adventures and realizing her dreams. It sounds like a true story, even though (I think) it's fiction with historical details.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rusty Gregory

    "My name is Alice." Interesting series by Allen Say. I think you either really like them or don't. The illustrations are excellent. This story was very interesting for someone who does not know much about what happened to Japanese Americans during WWII.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul L'Herrou

    This is a children's picture book. Be aware that it is quite sad, but a good book to introduce your child or grandchild to the terrible disruption we (the USA) carried out on West Coast Japanese-Americans during WWII - when they are old enough and ready for this message!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeni

    True to the beauty and hardship of life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    how the Japanese survived outside the camps in the us during world war ii, and how the swift change affected the rest of their lives

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tadja Potter

    Alice and her husband face many hardships with success in business during World War II and afterwards. The story is powerful and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful! I love this author.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    3 and a half This book has stunning illustrations and tells a simple story of a Japanese American woman's life journey. The title doesn't really fit the book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Linny

    for the water colors, stunning

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    gentle biography of a japanese/american woman from ww2 - the present.

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