THE EMPEROR OF ANY PLACE
When Evan’s father dies suddenly, Evan finds a hand-bound yellow book on his desk—a book his dad had been reading when he passed away. The book is the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a small Pacific island in WWII. Why was his father reading it? What is in this account that Evan’s grandfather, whom Evan has never met before, fears so much that he will do anything to prevent its being seen? And what could this possibly mean for Evan? In a pulse-quickening mystery evoking the elusiveness of truth and the endurance of wars passed from father to son,
When Evan’s father dies suddenly, Evan finds a hand-bound yellow book on his desk—a book his dad had been reading when he passed away. The book is the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a small Pacific island in WWII. Why was his father reading it? What is in this account that Evan’s grandfather, whom Evan has never met before, fears so much that he will do anything to prevent its being seen? And what could this possibly mean for Evan? In a pulse-quickening mystery evoking the elusiveness of truth and the endurance of wars passed from father to son, this engrossing novel is a suspenseful, at times terrifying read from award-winning author Tim Wynne-Jones.
- Candlewick Press
- October 2015
- 336 Pages
“English-Canadian author Tim Wynne-Jones crafts a truly spellbinding novel in which the mystical, desert-island, wartime chronicle is as riveting as the modern-day story … and the ways they begin to fuse together are breathtaking.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“An accomplished wordsmith, Wynne-Jones achieves an extraordinary feat: he eliminates the hidden depths of personalities and families through a mesmerizing blend of realism and magic.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A riveting, remarkable novel by a reliably great Canadian writer.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Offering a unique take on the World War II period, this intergenerational tale is an excellent addition to most YA collections.” —School Library Journal (starred review)
“An affecting and unforgettable read.” —The Horn Book (starred review)
1. Describe Evan as a character, including his life before his father died. How does he cope with his grief and anger?
2. Isamu comments on his father, who was harsh to him, and grandfather, who taught him about stories. Analyze his relationship with those two men and the effect it had on his sense of himself. Compare the relationships to those of Evan, Clifford, and Griff.
3. In the prologue to Isamu’s book, Derwood calls it “a remarkable love story,” referring to Isamu and Hisako (28). Discuss whether or not you agree. Find places where Isamu speaks to Hisako directly. What does it show about their relationship? How does writing to Hisako help Isamu?
4. When Isamu first encounters the ghost children, he thinks they will protect him from the other ghosts. Discuss who the ghost children are, what they do, and how they affect Isamu, Derwood, Griff, and Evan. How do they give Isamu hope? When Evan experiences being a ghost child on the island, what does he see?
5. Near the end of the book, Evan sees Griff as wearing a mask, which he also calls armor, that is slowly flaking off. Analyze the meaning of this metaphor and whether you find it effective. How does it tie in with the bunraku puppet show Isamu seems to see?
6. Isamu first sees Tengu when it attacks Derwood. He believes Derwood has brought it somehow. Describe Tengu and its role in the story for Isamu, Derwood, and Griff. Discuss it as a real creature and as a metaphor. Why does Isamu eventually think Tengu is his “master?”
7. Evan feels like he has washed up on a desert island “where he is surrounded by dead people … and one person who should be dead” (110). Griff describes himself as having landed on a “hostile island” (143). Discuss the importance of islands in the novel.
8. Griff says about veterans, “Nobody really wants to know about them or the dirty business they’re honor-bound to carry out” (288). Evan later sees a look on Griff ’s face that shows “a lifetime of people who didn’t get him — didn’t understand” (309). Discuss these quotes and what they say about Griff, his views on life, and his relationship to the world.
9. The book’s epigraph is an excerpt from Dylan Thomas’s poem “A Process in the Weather of the Heart.” What is the emotional impact of these lines, and how does it set a tone for the novel?