In order for 7th-9th grade students to connect to this story, they must (and certainly will) connect to the story's narrator, Eddy Okubo. If I were introducing the novel to my class for the first time, I would start with the characteristics of Eddy that would interest my students first. I would also frame discussion questions around circumstances in the book in order for students to see that despite their differences with the main character, they probably have much in common with him also.
- Japanese American. How has race/background/other differences affected your life positively and negatively?
- He is 16 years old and lives in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor is bombed. Be sure to give background on Pearl Harbor if this is not yet part of your students' knowledge base.
- He lies about his age in order to join the Army. Different groups of students have very different perspectives on the "nobility" of serving in the military. This might be a discussion to have before introducing the book.
- Eddy's father immediately disagrees with his decision, so Eddy is knowingly rebelling (against his family and possibly Japan). A discussion point here might be something along the lines of: talk about a time you did something you believed was the right thing to do, but your family disagreed.
In my opinion, the more students can relate to Eddy, the more they will ultimately take away from reading this novel. If they cannot find a connection to this character, likely they will not enjoy the book.