Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

So Far from the Bamboo Grove is an autobiography that traces the Japanese author’s narrow escape from Korea during World War II. In addition to the eleven chapters that tell Yoko Kawashima Watkins’ story, this riveting account offers a map showing all the geographical locations mentioned in the story, a foreword by acclaimed author Jean Fritz, and historical notes from the publisher.

So Far from the Bamboo Grove tells two parallel escape stories from Korea: the escape of eleven-year-old Yoko with her sister and mother, and the separate escape of her brother, Hideyo, with his friends. Although most of the story is about the Kawashima women, several chapters are devoted to Hideyo’s escape.

The setting is World War II. Yoko and her family are Japanese and living in Nanam, Korea. Korean Communists are killing the Japanese people, and many are fleeing the country. Yoko’s father is away from home, serving in the Japanese military, and Yoko and her family must escape from the Korean communists without his help.

Korean Communist soldiers come through Yoko’s village, ransacking her home and those of other Japanese families. When it occurs to Yoko’s mother, Mrs. Kawashima, that they must escape immediately, Yoko’s brother, Hideyo, is away working at a factory in another town. Mrs. Kawashima contacts a family friend and military officer, Corporal Matsumura, who assists Yoko, her sister, Ko, and Mrs. Kawashima...

(The entire section is 597 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Watkins begins her story in North Korea, moves into Seoul, South Korea, then into Pusan, a port city of Japan, and finally into Kyoto. These...

(The entire section is 205 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

So Far from the Bamboo Grove pits good against evil, war against peace, strength against weakness, and creation against destruction....

(The entire section is 518 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The memories of her escape were so painful that it took Watkins thirty-one years before she could begin to write her story. Her story is...

(The entire section is 701 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Ko said that Hideyo purposely failed the written test to join the armed forces. Do you think she was right? Why or why not?


(The entire section is 115 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Gain some background to the Japanese- Korean relations during World War II. Do you think that Watkins realistically portrayed this...

(The entire section is 174 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

My Brother, My Sister and I (Simon and Schuster, 1994) is the highly praised sequel to So Far from the Bamboo Grove. In this...

(The entire section is 158 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Bulletin of the Center for Children Books (June 1986): 199. A brief review of So Far from the Bamboo Grove.


(The entire section is 247 words.)