Enjoy the final, Part 4 of our Young Author Competiton Winner’s stories:

For most, the Tucson Festival of Books is an opportunity to rub elbows with some of the literary elite. Or at the very least, stare at them from afar working up the courage to have your tattered copy of a beloved novel signed. While we wait patiently for pages to be graced with an authors John Hancock, we rejoice in celebration of the art of literature and the written word with fellow bibliophiles. We stuff Bookmans’ totes with festival author novels and new non-fic finds. We emerge ourselves in panels and discussions on the writing process. But aside from all of that sweet bookish goodness is an array of community engagement and celebrations or art, science and learning. No TFOB event embodies this more than the Young Author Competition. Sponsored by Altrusa International of Tucson in collaboration with Tucson Festival of Books, the Young Author Competition encourages young would be Pulitzer Prize winners to create. Whether it be through poetry, short story or essay, any child from pre-k to pre-college in invited to put pen to paper and try their hand at prose.

young author

Bookmans is once again involved in the Young Authors Competition and couldn’t be more thrilled to do so. In addition to offering prizes to winners in the form of some Bookmans gift certs we also invited a few to be featured here on Bookmans.com. Over the next few days we will be posting one entry each day leading up to Tucson Festival of Books.

Please enjoy today’s feature A Change of Heart by 5th grader Daphne Graham.

A Change of Heart

“”December 18, 1941,” Amaya wrote at the top corner of her journal.  “The war continues.  Only eleven days after the attack on Pearl Har-,” she dropped her pencil.  Quickly standing up, knocking her chair clear behind her, she slammed her clammy hands on the top of her desk and shut her journal.  Panicking, she darted her hands forward to pull her curtains together.

“No, no, no,” she whispered hastily under her breath

“Okasan! Otosan!” She yelled into the kitchen where her mother and father were fixing themselves lunch.

“Soldiers!” She pointed to the window.

Amaya’s mother and father raced towards the kitchen window.

With a loud gasp, Amaya’s father murmured, “Behind the wall, go hide.”

Amaya and her mother followed his orders as Amaya’s father answered the door. Three powerful pounds crashed against the other side of the door.  Amaya’s father’s shaking hand reached for the doorknob while Amaya and her mother peered fearfully.  As the door opened, the two largest soldiers instantaneously took hold of Amaya’s father’s arms.

“Otosan!” She gasped.

“Quiet!  All of you are registered to be put in a prison camp for traitors.  One suitcase per person. Hurry!  We need to get you on the train to the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona.” One soldier ordered.

Arizona? What’d they plan on doing with us in the middle of the desert?” Amaya thought, shivering in perpetual fear.

Time passed and on arrival at camp, Amaya and her family walked side by side through the gates with two soldiers – American just like them. The soldier next to Amaya quickly glanced down at her and then abruptly turned away.  He looked young.

Too young to be a soldier,” Amaya thought suspiciously.

He appeared kinder, and seemed to act much less overbearing than the other soldiers.

Ignoring him, she pondered.  “Imprisoned by race.  Wow, never thought I’d be saying that about myself at fifteen.”

As her feet left the ground they kicked up dust around her on the arid desert floor.  Then they connected with the ground again in anger and disappointment within every trudge towards the horse stables.

Close to the horse stables, Amaya smelled the appalling scent of the living spaces they’d soon be calling home.

Outside the stables, armies of century towers stood proud and tall against the fiery orange desert sky.  Only making her thoughts that more frightful were the barbed wire fencing surrounding the camp like a bow wrapped gently but tightly around a box.  Except this time, that box had a ribbon around it that would tear you apart piece by piece and attach a death sentence to you if you tried to escape its tight grip.

Even still, Amaya saw the mountains sparkling with bright indigo and white ridges lightly pressed against the horizon alongside the sun’s stunning rays.

She whispered in awe.  “Beautiful. Sketching this in my journal later.” How could everything at a place so horrid look so magnificent in her eyes?

Briefly looking back at the mountains, she stepped inside the horse stable.  All she saw were four blank white walls with two cots, one window, and a single stove all crammed into this minuscule area.  Snapped wires hung from the walls, the paint was stripped, and the window was practically shattered.

“Okasan,” Amaya wept.  “How long are we staying here?”

“For as long as it takes.” She replied with optimism.

Three days past and Amaya sat in the camp’s hall where dinner was held.  Loneliness was starting to settle in.

“Okasan, Otosan,” Amaya said suddenly.

“Yes, Amaya?” Her mom responded.

“May I go get my sketchbook from our room?”

“Yes, go ahead.  Be right back here soon,” her dad interjected.

Amaya headed towards their stable.  The century towers’ searchlights following her every footstep.  She bolted for her room and there lie her sketchbook on her cot.  She heard footsteps outside that seemed to conclude at her door.

Half paralyzed, Amaya stuttered.  “Wh-who is it?” No response.  Against her own judgement, she opened the sliding latch on her stable door.

The soldier that had walked her in was standing solemnly on the other side of her door.  His head faced down and he rocked back and forth on his feet anxiously.

Defensively, she said, “Why are you here?”

No response.

“Okay then.” She uttered dismissively.

He looked up at Amaya with the most sorrowful eyes and showed his hands to her as if to say he brought no weapons with him.

A wave of anguish filled her heart and Amaya blurted. “Is everything alright?”

“I mean no harm whatsoever.  I heard about the government putting people in these cruel prison camps and felt like it was my role to help out.  I’ve been delivering supplies that would help all families everyday.  If you or your family need anything let me know.”

Amaya stood perplexed for a moment until her dad called out. “Amaya?”

“Yes, Otosan?” Amaya retorted, quickly grabbing her possessions before she met her dad outside.  “Otosan, I’m sorry it took so long.”

Amaya and her dad walked back to the hall together and finished dinner with Amaya’s mother.

Multiple nights later, Amaya couldn’t asleep.  Her eyes were stuck wide open like a fish.

Maybe I should sketch?” She thought sitting up in her cot.

Being so dark out, she thought she saw something off in the corner of her room.  She blinked, but it didn’t disappear.  Again, she rubbed her eyes.  Still there.  Amaya crept out of her creaky bed and saw the object next to the door.  A box with a note attached.

Written on it said:

Earlier today, a group of soldiers caught me delivering supplies to another family. For these reasons I have been transferred to another prison camp. Inside this box are supplies that will help you and your family out greatly.  Food, water, extra clothes, etc.

I wish you, your family, and all the others the best.  Happy to help.


                                          Jessie Buchanan


Catch up on Part 1Part 2 and Part 3 here. We hope you enjoyed the series and would love to hear from you in the comments below. See you at Tucson Festival of Books!