Literacy Map
Jennifer Olesiewicz
TAL 203
In-depth Analysis of
Theme of Under the
Blood Red Sun by
Graham Salisbury
Under the Blood
Red Sun by
Graham Salisbury
Attacks on
Oahu, Hawaii
Attacks on
Annotated Bibliography
Salisbury, Graham. (1994). Under the blood red
sun. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell
Publishing Group, Inc.
Under the Blood Red Sun by Graham
Tomi, a Japanese American boy who lives in
Hawaii, must deal with the horrors and the
aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks. Tomi
learns that people’s prejudices and
discrimination can cause great pain and grief to
good people. He also learns that cultural
traditions and family are important, especially
in times of difficulty and strife. From the
perspective of Tomi, the reader more fully
comprehends the atrocities of war for
individual people and families.
Suggested Grade Levels: 4th grade to 7th grade
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Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941
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The Japanese destroyed most of the
U.S. battleship force in one surprise
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Japanese Internment Camps
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Fearful of another attack, the United
States government sent about
120,000 Japanese Americans away
from their homes and loved ones to
internment camps. These camps
serve as a reminder that we must
not act out of fear, but love and
understanding toward our fellow
The katana, a Japanese
samurai sword, is an
important family
heirloom in Tomi’s family.
It signifies the Japanese
values of cultural
traditions and family
Quote from Under the Blood Red Sun
by Graham Salisbury
“I decided that tonight I would take out the katana and carefully rub
away any spots of rust I found on the blade. Then I would run the
oilcloth over it and let Kimi hold it. I would tell her where it came from,
and why we needed to protect it and keep it clean, and what it stood for.
I would tell her that Papa and Grampa would be so proud of her when
they came home and found out that she knew all about why we still had
it after all these years” (244).
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In-depth Analysis of Theme in
Under the Blood Red Sun by
Graham Salisbury
Theme, an important literary element, conveys the key
messages that the author weaves into the fabric of the book.
The themes of Under the Blood Red Sun are centered around
the tragedies of war and the Japanese heritage of the main
character, Tomi, who lives in Hawaii during the time of the
Pearl Harbor attacks. This award-winning book contains many
powerful, meaningful messages that still hold true in today’s
Please click here for an in-depth analysis of theme.
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In-depth Analysis of Theme in Under the Blood Red Sun
Graham Salisbury’s Under the Blood Red Sun contains many powerful, important messages as themes. Through
the perspective of Tomikazu, a young Japanese boy living in Hawaii during the Pearl Harbor attack, the reader grasps the
heartbreaking realities of war along with the blindness of prejudice and the importance of family and culture
Three generations of people are clearly juxtaposed in this novel. Tomi’s grandfather honors the great traditions of
Japan. Tomi’s father works hard as a fisherman as he tries to live the American dream while still maintaining the Japanese
values and traditions that he so cherishes. Tomi, on the other hand, is, at times, embarrassed to be Japanese. He calls
himself an American. At times, he is fed up with his grandfather’s loyalty to Japan. At other times, he feels pressure to live
up to the Japanese ideals of humility and graciousness that his father has instilled in him. Salisbury skillfully transmits the
message of the importance of remembering one’s cultural traditions through the Japanese items throughout Tomi’s home.
A sacred samurai sword called the katana, the picture of the Japanese emperor, and the Japanese flag serve as reminders of
Tomi’s Japanese heritage. After the FBI takes away Grampa, Tomi must protect the cherished katana, a symbol of his
family’s Japanese ancestry: “Ancestors. Honor. Respect. It was all just an old man’s talk. Something I’d always listened to
with only half of one ear, if even that. But now Grampa counted on me to save it all, save the katana. Not my katana…but
the family katana. It belonged to no one, and to everyone…past, present, and future” (Salisbury, 222-23).
Most people would acknowledge that war creates destruction, devastation, and loss. However, the character of
Tomi allows the reader to feel the destruction, devastation, and loss on a personal level. The reader comes to the realization
that war personally affects a person’s life, especially a child’s life. This is an important theme throughout the book as the
reader painfully watches Tomi grow up too fast:
“But I couldn’t help thinking about the battleships in Pearl Harbor, and of all the men who had died there. What
about their families? And all those innocent people like Papa and Grampa who’d gotten caught up? What about
my friends and the boys in Kaka’ako who’d had someone taken away from them- fathers and uncles and
grandfathers? A lot had happened…a lot of bad things. Thinking about it made me sad. For Mama. For Sanji’s
wife, and Mari. For everyone” (231-32).
Tomi’s words, thoughts, and actions help the reader understand not only the sadness in the young boy’s heart, but also the
need for a glimmer of hope in order to survive such devastation. Connecting with Tomi on a personal level, the reader
comprehends the important, powerful themes that are intertwined throughout the very fiber of the book.
Annotated Bibliography
Sierra, Judy. (1999). Tasty baby belly buttons.
New York: Random House, Inc.
Tasty Baby Belly Buttons by Judy Sierra
Uriko, a young girl who was born out of a melon,
is the pride and joy of her parents. She goes on a
mission with her dog, a monkey, and a pheasant
to save her the town’s babies from the evil oni,
who want to feast on baby belly buttons. She
and her companions return to the town as
heroes with the babies and other riches. This
Japanese folktale highlights Japanese words, such
as boro boro, and aspects of Japanese culture,
such a cooking millet dumplings. The vivid,
colorful illustrations add to the reader’s
understanding of the text.
Suggested Grade Levels: Kindergarten to 2nd grade
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Annotated Bibliography
Spivak, Dawnine. (1997). Grass sandals: The
travels of Basho. New York: Simon & Schuster
Children’s Publishing Division.
Grass Sandals: The Travels of Basho by
Dawnine Spivak
This beautiful story highlights the many wonders of
the land of Japan as Basho, a poet, journeys
through the land. As he sees cherry blossom trees
and experiences the richness of varied terrain, he
writes haikus, ancient Japanese poems. This book
provides written Japanese characters for the stops
along Basho’s journey. It incorporates many aspects
of the Japanese culture and language. A map is
included at the end of the story to mark Basho’s
stops along his journey through Japan.
Suggested Grade Levels: 1st grade to 5th grade
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Annotated Bibliography
Yagawa, Sumiko. (1979). The crane wife. New York:
William and Morrow Company, Inc.
The Crane Wife retold by Sumiko Yagawa
The day after Yohei saves an injured crane, a woman
mysteriously appears at his door. She asks to become his
wife. As the two need money, the young woman weaves
cloth upon a loom with the plea for Yohei to not look at
her while she weaves. Each time the woman weaves, she
appears tired and exhausted. As the prospect of more
money tempts him, Yohei asks her a final, third time to
weave. He finally peaks in on her and discovers that she
is the crane that he had once tended to in her time of
need. Revealed, the crane flies away as she wishes Yohei
all the best. This tale makes use of the traditional
Japanese bird, the crane, for a story with good morals
and lessons: It is important to be kind, and greed can
cause great sadness.
Suggested Grade Levels: 1st grade to 3rd grade
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Annotated Bibliography
Yep, Laurence. (1995). Hiroshima. New York:
Scholastic, Inc.
Hiroshima by Laurence Yep
This novella recounts the horrific experience of the
dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima. Yep
intertwines the many faces and sides of this
account. She tells the story of Riko and Sachi,
Japanese children, to put a human face on the
account. She also includes the experiences of the
Japanese people in the town, as well as the
experiences of those involved in dropping the atom
bomb. She not only states the facts in a way
children can understand, but also evokes emotion.
Suggested Grade Level: 5th grade to 7th grade
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Hiroshima bombing on August 6, 1945
A B-29 Bomber, the
Enola Gay, released a
uranium bomb over the
city of Hiroshima. The
bombing caused injuries
and fatalities along with
destruction of much of
the city.
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Japan at a Glance…
Japan has a rich cultural tradition
rooted in ancient values and
practices. Literature about Japan
usually reveals this connection to
the past.

Literacy Map Japan - University of Miami