Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

August 15, 2006 > Footnotes


"The Game of Sunken Places" by M.T. Anderson; Scholastic paperback, $5.99 (2005)

by Joyce Peters and Dominique Hutches

"The Game of Sunken Places" by M.T. Anderson; Scholastic paperback, $5.99 (2005)

This book won't appeal to everyone. There are a lot of British references in it and a strange cranky old uncle. But if a bit of language and quirkiness won't deter you, you're in for a grand and sometimes scary adventure. Greg and Brian are two buddies who have been invited to Uncle Max's secluded home. They arrive to find not much to do but an odd board game with illustrations that look as if they were made around the time the house was built. There are no instructions; and half the game board is faded to the point of illegibility.

Somehow the game gets started. Greg and Brian soon learn that what seems to be a game is happening to them in real life. The story has a Jumanji feel to the plot, but with more sinister overtones (appropriate since this is for an older age group). An opponent shows up who quickly makes it apparent that this game is for real. If Greg and Brian lose, there's far more at stake than pride or some silly game piece. It could be their very lives.
Recommended for 6th grade. (Reviewed by dh.)

Just An Ordinary Guy

"Across Two Worlds, Memoirs of a Nisei Flower Grower" by Yoshimi Shibata; Midori Books; hardcover, $26.95 or paperback, $16.95 (2006)

Before there was a Fremont, there were local farming communities of Mexican, Italian and Portuguese immigrants. In a suburb of Hayward, Japanese farmers, mostly sharecroppers, worked the land. "Across Two Worlds" describes a thriving Japanese-American community in Mount Eden.

Yoshimi Shibata, a flower grower and wholesaler, owns the 100 year old Mt Eden Nursery in Hayward. At age ninety, a man has the right to look back with nostalgia - but Mr. Shibata is a forward-thinking man. He is "just an ordinary guy," he says, a Nisei (second generation Japanese American) not much interested in telling his own story. But, encouraged by his children and grandchildren, Mr. Shibata has written about growing up in two worlds, Japanese and American, and his struggle to bridge the two.

A key event was the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Mr. Shibata describes the trauma of having to relocate with his family to internment camps after giving away the business first established by his father. Through twenty-first century eyes, it's difficult to imagine: 120,000 displaced Japanese-Americans, forced to forge new communities while being officially ostracized. Even after the war, internees struggled to find a place in society. Can they return to their past lives? Can they ever be just Americans?

Mr. Shibata was single-minded in his quest to reestablish the family business and make it a success. Mount Eden Nursery has now lasted for three generations. It evolved from the family farm of Zenjuro Shibata, Yoshimi's father, who carried baskets of cut flowers to sell in San Francisco (before BART or Highway 880), to a greenhouse grower to an international flower wholesaler. Along the way, Yoshimi Shibata raised a family, mentored fellow growers and helped bring innovation to the flower industry.

It's natural to think of your life as meaningful only to those who love you. But we all make difficult moral and ethical choices in dealing with all that life throws our way. Mr. Shibata's book reminds us that these choices change other people's lives and the lives of those whom they touch. Your potential sphere of influence is large, even if you are not a politician or a corporate leader. Sometimes just an ordinary guy who follows his dream and thinks about others can have a powerful and positive impact. (Reviewed by jp.)

Recommended for teens and adults, especially those interested in local history and business. To order, contact National Japanese American Historical Society, 415.921.5007 or

One City One Book
What if we all read the same book?

John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1956, the year
Fremont came into being. The city is still evolving from five separate communities with their own identities into one city. Although we've come a long way in a short time, there are still some occasions when we are all on the same page. Fremont Main Library is celebrating the 50th anniversary with a city-wide reading of "Profiles in Courage," culminating in a community book discussion to be held in September. For more information or to reserve a copy of his book, please go to the Information Desk at Fremont Main Library or call 510.745.1401.

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