I might be prejudiced toward this lovely middle grade book because I've met the author (and my sister is one of the lucky early readers mentioned in the acknowledgments)--but I don't that matters much. The story is a powerful, heart-warming exploration of prejudice, love, and family in post WWII California.
Ella Mae Higbee's crazy aunt has found a scientist who thinks he can resurrect her cousin Robbie, killed at Iwo Jima, from some blood on his dog tags. But when Ella Mae, her mother, and aunt show up at the laboratory, it's to find a young Japanese soldier waiting for them instead of Robbie. While their aunt repulses the boy, it's up to Ella Mae and her mother to take him in, and find their lives transformed in exchange.
Although the science in the book is a little far-fetched and the premise might lead you to expect a more science-fictiony adventure story, the story is a touching look at friendship, as the boy (Takuma) becomes Ella Mae's best friend, and Ella Mae struggles to understand how his presence can unleash so much turmoil and hatred in her small town, even in her family. But I loved how fiercely Ella Mae and her mother fought for him, and for doing the right thing. A terrific look at a historical era and a great jumping point for discussions about prejudice and friendship.