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On Sale: December 30, 2008
Pages: 272 | ISBN: 978-0-307-54852-8
Published by : Wendy Lamb Books RH Childrens Books

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Tomi was born in Hawaii. His grandfather and parents were born in Japan, and came to America to escape poverty.

World War II seems far away from Tomi and his friends, who are too busy playing ball on their eighth-grade team, the Rats.

But then Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese, and the United States declares war on Japan. Japanese men are rounded up, and Tomi’s father and grandfather are arrested. It’s a terrifying time to be Japanese in America. But one thing doesn’t change: the loyalty of Tomi’s buddies, the Rats.
Graham Salisbury

About Graham Salisbury

Graham Salisbury - Under the Blood-Red Sun

Photo © Jeff Pfeffer

I hope what gives my books their sense of authenticity, other than the natural inculcation of the island’s physical and cultural landscape, which ends up in my sentences by osmosis, is my use of language. In Hawaii we often speak what we call pidgin English, a kind of tropical patois. For example, in standard English, one would say, “I am going home.” In Hawaiian pidgin, it would be, “I going home.” A simple thing, but over the course of a novel, it becomes a bigger thing, a part of a character’s being. It resonates. Syntax, too, creates that feeling of authenticity. It comes to me naturally, thank heaven. I don’t have to work at it because I simply hear it. If I had to fake, it I’d be laughed off the face of the earth. So, growing up in the islands was my gift. My writing is just me spewing it back.

As for the work itself, I’m big on certain issues having to do with boys and growing up. I guess this is so because of my own fractured upbringing. Much of who I am is self-imposed. I am my choices, and I have chosen to walk a certain path. Important to me are such qualities as honesty, friendship, honor, loyalty, integrity, courage, work, and passion. Life for anyone is a series of choices, and I hope that fact gets some play in my books. Luckily for me, I have made some good choices. It could have been different. I could have taken pride in the wrong moves, as many boys do. It’s cool to be tough. Beating the spit out of someone is good for the rep. It’s honorable to attack someone who “disrespects” you by, perhaps, accidentally bumping into you (“Hey! You like I broke your face or what?”). Right. I could have fallen into that mindset. But I didn’t, and I lay all credit to that on one man: James Monroe Taylor, my high school headmaster.

At the end of my sixth-grade year, my mom saw the light—she kicked my sorry okole out of the house and sent me to boarding school. It was in the middle of Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii, and was the most precious gift she ever could have given me. I loved it. For the first time in my life, I had something I really, really, really needed: limits. It was like being at boot camp. Mr. Taylor, as part of his training, took us into his home in small groups and lectured us on the good qualities of life, all that stuff that is now so important to me: friendship, honor, etc. Of course, it was my duty at that time to laugh it off. That fat old man was out of his head. But his words stuck, and because they did, whenever I was presented with a sticky situation, I was able to fall back on that foundation and use it to make the better choice. My mother and Mr. Taylor—my hat’s off to both of them.

In my career as an author, I’ve spoken to a bazillion kids, mostly in grades six through eight. It’s been fun, truly. But I had an epiphany one day, and my newest creation, Calvin Coconut, came to be because of it.

I once spoke to a large group of fifth and sixth graders in a huge gymnasium, and was leaving the school, heading down the hall with the teacher who had invited me. “There’s a third-grade teacher here in our school who just loves your books,” she said as we walked, “and she asked me to ask you if you would be willing to just stop by her class and say hi to her kids. They know about you, too, because she read them one of your short stories.”

“Sure,” I said. I’d never spoken to third graders. It might be fun.

Boy, was it.

The third-grade teacher and every one of her students were literally glowing with excitement, having the author in their classroom.

They gathered around, sitting in a semicircle on the floor. I sat in a chair next to the teacher, who reached over and picked up a plate of cookies.

The kids all leaned forward, eyes bright as a thousand suns, rascally twinkles in them.

“Would you like to try one of the cookies we made in class?” she said.

I didn't, but I was on duty. “Uh, sure,” I said.

She pushed the plate closer.

The kids did a magnificent job of stuffing back their giggles as I reached out and picked up a yummy-looking but—I could tell—very fake cookie.

The teacher grinned, and I played along and pretended to bite into it. “Bleecck!” I spat, and the kids roared, as if it were the funniest thing they’d ever seen in their lives.

And that’s what got me: those beautiful, beautiful faces, all looking up at me in pure delight.

I ended up telling them a story of when I got stuck in a mass of mud, a story I love to tell, and they laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

I left that school a new man, and vowed then and there that someday I was going to expand my writing to include this group. Because I loved those faces and yearn to absorb that energy.

I also wanted to include this younger audience because teachers have told me many, many times that they just can’t get their boys interested in reading. I know of their plight. I was one of those boys. I read only one book on my own in all my elementary school years: Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

So Calvin Coconut and I have a job to do. Call Calvin Graham Salisbury light, because I’m bringing real-life situations and themes for discussion into every Calvin book, just like I do in my books for older readers. I won’t get heavy, I won’t get edgy, and I won’t be gratuitous. None of this is about me. It’s about every kid out there today who is just like the wandering fool I was. Besides the simple enjoyment of writing, my aim is simple: to build trust and turn boys into lifetime readers.

I finally became a reader at thirty. That’s how hard it is to get some boys to read. I’d like to help change that a bit. Because reading changes everything. Oh yeah.
Praise | Awards


Winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults

A Booklist Children’s Editor’s Choice


WINNER 1996 Massachusetts Children's Book Master List
NOMINEE 1998 Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award
WINNER 1998 Hawaii Nene Award
WINNER 1999 California Young Reader Medal
WINNER 1995 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction
WINNER 1995 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


Under the Blood-Red Sun and Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury are companion books that illustrate the impact of cultural prejudice during a time of intense fear–the invasion of Pearl Harbor.

Both novels expose the lives of Japanese American families struggling to define an American identity for themselves, while also preserving their Japanese roots and traditions. The stories bring to light the devastation and horror of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and the shocking internment of American citizens that followed.

Eyes of the Emperor

Eyes of the Emperor is a riveting historical novel that exposes the reality of cultural prejudice for Japanese American soldiers during World War II.

Readers will sympathize with the young protagonist, Eddie Okubo, who tolerates unimaginable indignity–all in the name of serving his country. It will take the bonds of friendship and an innate sense of honor for Eddie to survive this period of uncertainty and panic.

Under the Blood-Red Sun

After the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, it is the friendship and loyalty of eighth-grader Tomi Nakaji’s baseball buddies that help him through this terrifying time.

Under the Blood-Red Sun is a gripping story about family traditions, survival, friendship, courage, and honor. Young readers will be drawn to the plight of Tomi and his family as they strive to deal with the cultural prejudice that profoundly affects their lives.


Born in Hawaii, Graham Salisbury is a descendant of the Thurston and Andrews families, who were among the first missionaries to arrive in the Hawaiian islands. He grew up on the islands of Oahu and Hawaii. Later he graduated from California State University and received an MFA degree from Vermont College of Norwich University. Today, he lives in Portland, Oregon, with his family, and is a faculty member with Vermont College’s new MFA program in Writing for Children. Graham Salisbury has his own Web site where students can submit their own fiction to him for feedback at www.grahamsalisbury.com


Pre-Reading Activity

Replicate Jane Elliott’s 1968 “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” experiment as an introductory activity on cultural racism. Start by informing the students that they will be doing a special experiment during class. Next, divide the students into two groups: the brown eyes and the blue eyes. Anyone with green or hazel eyes will be considered outsiders and will not be able to participate in the activity. Inform the children that the brown-eyed students will be superior to the blue-eyed children due to the amount of the color-causing chemical melanin in their blood. You may elect to withdraw basic rights or classroom privileges from blue-eyed students, and you may give the brown-eyed children preferential treatment and special perks.

Allow some class time for the students to feel the full effects of the experiment while they are going about their usual work. Conclude the exercise by asking students how it felt to be excluded, put down, or superior to others. Begin to give students some background information on how Japanese Americans were treated in similar ways in the days surrounding the attacks on Pearl Harbor.


An excerpt from the Author’s Note in Eyes of the Emperor

Eyes of the Emperor is a work of fiction. However, as is its companion novel, Under the Blood-Red Sun, it is based on factual events and incidents of World War II. . . .The twenty-six Hawaii Americans of Japanese ancestry to whom I have dedicated this novel were hand-picked for top-secret K-9 training on Cat Island, Mississippi. . . . I have been profoundly fortunate in having met and interviewed eight of the twenty-six Cat Island men [and] sixty years after their Cat Island experience, their wartime camaraderie is as strong as ever. I found them all warm, welcoming, friendly, and humble. “I was proud to do my part,” Tokuji Ono said. And Ray Nosaka asked, “Remember us, so that we won’t be forgotten.”

Excerpted from Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury. Copyright © 2005 by Graham Salisbury. Excerpted by permission of Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Thematic Connections
Questions for Group Discussion

CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS–Eddy and Cobra capture a Japanese soldier off the coast of Hawaii. The Japanese soldier, Sakamaki, asks to be killed because he is deeply ashamed of his capture. (p. 111) Sakamaki lived by the bushido custom of ancient warriors who understood the shame of surrender and capture. (p. 113) Ask students to research the Japanese traditions of bushido and kamikaze. How did the values of these Japanese customs and traditions come into
play during World War II?

FRIENDSHIP–Eddy expresses gratitude over having friends like Cobra and Slim as his comrade on Cat Island. Ask students to consider the meaning of friendship–both in the book and in real life–and write a Haiku about it. (This Japanese poem has three lines. The first line has five syllables, the second line has seven syllables, and the third line has five syllables). The teacher should model writing a Haiku for the class before having students write one of their own.

SURVIVAL–Eddy has to survive a hideous experiment on Cat Island. He narrates that he is worried for his own safety and feels like nobody is looking out for him. Ask your students to help Eddy by preparing a survival pack for him. Have students work in groups to write a survival guide for the soldiers on Cat Island. Challenge students to assemble a survival kit for Eddy that contain everything he might need to face the physical an emotional challenges of his military mission.

COURAGE AND HONOR–In a daring water rescue, Slim risks his life to save James from the rocky sea during a daunting storm. Eddy describes it as “the bravest thing I’d seen in the army so far.” (p. 207) Have students analyze this scene in the book. What motivated James? How is he courageous? Discuss how courageous acts don’t always have to be visible. Ask students to define courage in their own words and write a paragraph about the most courageous thing they have ever done or witnessed. As an extension activity, encourage students to find articles and pictures of teenagers who have displayed courage and post them in the classroom.

Connecting to the Curriculum

SCIENCE–Eddy is forced to serve as human bait for dogs learning to track the scent of Japanese soldiers. Ask students to research the science and psychology behind canine training. Using reference materials, learn how scientists train animals (and people) using positive and negative reinforcement. Investigate how man can manipulate mind and brain processes.

Eddy describes the dangerous creatures in the jungle of Cat Island. (p. 172) Ask students to research the real Cat Island in Mississippi, and list the types of creatures and animals in the region. Using reference materials, research the types of dangers these creatures would pose to American soldiers stationed on Cat Island.

LANGUAGE ARTS–The storm scene in Chapter 32 (“Guts”) serves as a metaphor for the emotional turmoil of the young men on Cat Island. Ask students to review the chapter and discuss the scene. Examine how authors use natural catastrophes as metaphors in other writings. To extend the activity, make a list on the board of forces of nature like hurricanes, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Challenge students to write about a human emotion using one of the storm metaphors listed on the board.

SOCIAL STUDIES–Herbie writes a letter to Eddy saying his mother is volunteering with the Red Cross. (p. 257) Ask students to research what was happening on the home front during World War II. How were the roles of women changing in America while their husbands were away at war? What kinds of things were women doing to contribute to the war effort?

Eddy says he has “the eyes of Emperor, and that’s what scares people.” (p.88) Take students to the media center to research Emperor Hirohito of Japan. What was his role in the invasion of Pearl Harbor? What kind of leader was he?

When Eddy is bussed to Camp McCoy, he notices a prison called an internment center. Eddy explains it was “not a place for enemies, but for people kicked out of west coast states.” (p. 131) Ask students to investigate the internment camps of World War II. Find out what the American government has done recently to express regret to Japanese Americans for the internment camps.

MATH–Using maps, track Eddy’s journey from Hawaii to Mississippi (including his stops in California and Wisconsin). Calculate the total distance he traveled from his home in Honolulu to his post in Cat Island, Mississippi. Estimate the amount of time it took for him to complete his journey, one-way. Hypothesize the amount of time it would have taken if Eddy if he had been transported by plane instead.


An excerpt from Under the Blood-Red Sun
Crummmp . . . .thoomp, thoomp.
My heart began pounding. I raced into the trees after Billy, nearly blinded by snapping branches. We clawed our way up the tree. When we reached the top, another plane flew past, barely higher than the trees. Billy and I waved, but the pilot didn’t notice us. What was going on? They never flew that low. Huge awful black clouds of smoke rolled up into the sky from Pearl Harbor. You could barely see the ships, which were lined up in neat rows like chips of gray metal. The smoke was so thick you couldn’t even see the mountains. Hundreds of planes circled the sky like black gnats, peeling off and dropping down to vanish into the boiling smoke, then reappearing, shooting skyward with engines groaning, circling back, sunlight flashing when they turned.
“My God,” Billy whispered. “That smoke . . . it’s . . . ack-ack! . . . This is for real!”

Excerpted from Under the Blood-Red Sun by Graham Salisbury. Copyright © 1994 by Graham Salisbury. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Thematic Connections
Questions for Group Discussion

CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS–Tomi’s family owns a katana–or samurai sword–that symbolizes honor. It has been in the family for over 300 years. Many families have items that have belonged to them for generations (e.g., a Bible, pictures, letters, antique furniture, quilt, jewelry, toys, etc). Have students ask their parents or grandparents to share with them their family’s most cherished item, and find out the story behind the item to share with the class.

SURVIVAL–The Nakaji family must take many precautions to protect themselves, like observing blackout rules and hanging blankets over the windows at night in case of an air raid. Ask students other ways they might prepare for a raid in order to protect themselves and their homes.

FRIENDSHIP–What do Tomi and his friends have in common? How are they different? Ask each student to think about a special friend, then take a sheet of paper and create two columns. In one column, list how they are similar to their friend. In the other column, list their differences. After this exercise is completed, have students write a one-page paper about the qualities that bind their friendship.

COURAGE AND HONOR–Tomi is asked by his grandfather to save the family and katana. (p. 222) What makes Tomi finally understand the meaning of the sword? Do you think his grandfather would have felt that Tomi was worthy of the sword? How does the katana give Tom the strength he needs to stand up to bully Keet Wilson? od-Red Sun

Connecting to the Curriculum

SOCIAL STUDIES–Tomi and his little sister, Kimi, can be citizens of the United States because they were born in Hawaii. Other members of the Nakaji family are not allowed citizenship. Ask students to use the library to find out how foreigners can become citizens of the United States today. What takes place at a citizenship ceremony?

In 1962, the United States government completed the USS Arizona Memorial, a site that has become a great tourist attraction; in 1965, Pearl Harbor was named a national historic landmark, and in 1980, it was placed under the direction of the National Park Service. Research the symbolism of the architecture of this historic memorial. What items can tourists expect to see there?

SCIENCE–The United States government orders Tomi’s father’s racer pigeons destroyed, because it fears they are truly messenger pigeons. Ask students to research how racer and messenger pigeons are trained. Using reference materials, find out how messenger pigeons have been used in warfare throughout history.

LANGUAGE ARTS–Tomi is forced to become the man of the family; he feels protective of his mother and little sister. Sometimes stories bring comfort of people in times of trouble. Challenge students to go to the library and search for a Japanese fairy tale that might be appropriate for Tomi to read to Kimi to soothe her. Ask them to share their reasons for choosing their particular stories.

MATH–Ask students to use an almanac to find out how many Japanese have become American citizens since World War II. Construct a graph that indicates the growth in the Japanese American population in the United States by specific years.

Novel Connections: Using the Books Together

• Construct a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the novels Under the Blood-Red Sun and Eyes of the Emperor. Ask students to examine the books in terms of main characters, themes, literary techniques, and historical events.

• Analyze the battle scenes in both novels when Pearl Harbor is attacked. How does author Graham Salisbury construct the two scenes in similar or different ways? How does Salisbury’s description of the attack reflect, or differ from, historical accounts? Ask students to investigate the historical details regarding Pearl Harbor and write their own version of the attack using the authentic details from their research.

• How is cultural prejudice inflicted on characters in both novels? Ask students to brainstorm examples of cultural discrimination from both books. What gives both sets of characters the strength to deal with acts of prejudice? What motivates the American characters who discriminate against the Japanese Americans? How are the acts of racism in the novels similar to prejudice experienced by minority groups in America today?

• Ask students to compare the mindset of America following the Pearl Harbor invasion to the atmosphere of fear following the World Trade Center attacks. Ask students to research cultural prejudice in America following acts of war like Pearl Harbor and 9/11. If possible, encourage students to interview people who were alive during both historical events. Have students write a comparative essay that juxtaposes the culture of fear following both homeland invasions.


Eyes of the Emperor

In Eyes of the Emperor, Graham Salisbury uses descriptive language and literary devices to vividly describe Cobra, Eddy’s best friend. (p. 30) Point out Salisbury’s use of simile in the phrases ”built like a tuna” and ”strike like a snake.” Discuss the metaphor used in the description, ”A typhoon trapped in a tin can.” Ask students to identify strong and descriptive verbs like “rippled” and “strike.” Have students describe someone, perhaps their best friend, who has a nickname that reflects their personality using a metaphor, simile, and strong verbs.

Under the Blood-Red Sun

In Under the Blood-Red Sun, Graham Salisbury uses several literary devises to create certain images:“The red suns striking down like hot stones” is an example of a simile. (p. 109) “Another dark plane charged down on us from behind, screaming out of the valley from the mountains” is an example of personification. (p. 107) Ask students to find other examples of these literary devices in the novel. Then have them rewrite favorite passages using simile and personification. Japanese words are used to authentically portray the culture of the Nakaji family: kimpatsu– with yellow hair (p. 3) and gamman–patience (p. 14). Ask students to make a glossary of Japanese words and their meanings


Also from Graham Salisbury
Available Fall 2006

House of the Red Fish
Wendy Lamb Books • 0-385-73121-3

1943: One year after the end of Under the Blood-Red Sun, Tomi’s family is still subject to the extreme prejudice against Japanese Americans in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the face of adversity, Tomi resolves to raise his father’s fishing boat (sunken in the attack) as a symbol of hope that his family will one day be made whole.


Prepared by Jennifer L. Hart, International Baccalaureate Coordinator, Thomas Jefferson High School, Richmond, Virginia.



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