Cover image for Hunt for the bamboo rat
Hunt for the bamboo rat
Salisbury, Graham, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Wendy Lamb Books, [2014]
Physical Description:
323 pages : maps ; 22 cm.
Zenji Watanabe, seventeen, is sent from Hawaii to the Philippines to spy on the Japanese during World War II and, after he is captured and tortured, must find a way to survive months of being lost in the jungle behind enemy lines.
Reading Level:
HL 510 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



"A gripping saga of wartime survival." -- Kirkus Reviews , Starred

Based on a true story, this World War II novel by Scott O'Dell Award winner Graham Salisbury tells how Zenji, 17, is sent from Hawaii to the Philippines to spy on the Japanese.

Zenji Watanabe was born in Hawaii. He's an American, but the Japanese wouldn't know it by the look of him. And that's exactly what the US government is counting on.

Because he speaks both English and Japanese perfectly, the army recruits Zenji for a top-secret mission to spy on the Japanese. If they discover his true identity, he'll be treated as a traitor and executed on the spot.

As World War II boils over in the Pacific, Zenji is caught behind enemy lines. But even though his Japanese heritage is his death warrant, it's also his key to outwitting the enemy and finding the strength to face the terrors of battle, the savagery of the jungle, and the unspeakable cruelty of war.

The riveting Hunt for the Bamboo Rat is based on a true story and follows in the path of author Graham Salisbury's other highly acclaimed Prisoners of the Empire titles, which began with the award-winning Under the Blood-Red Sun.

Finalist for:
Nebraska Golden Sower Award
South Carolina Book Awards

"Salisbury has once again crafted a fine novel, based on an actual person, about first-generation Americans of Japanese descent and the clash of culture and national identity that World War II accentuated. . . . The story will leave readers spellbound." -- Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"Fast-paced and compelling, this title will be enjoyed by voracious and reluctant readers." -- SLJ

"The history is fascinating, and Zenji is a fictional hero readers will long remember." -- The Horn Book

Author Notes

Graham Salisbury's family has lived in the Hawaiian Islands since the early 1800s. He grew up on Oahu and Hawaii and graduated from California State University. He received an MFA from Vermont College of Norwich University, where he was a member of the founding faculty of the MFA program in writing for children. He lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.
nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;Graham Salisbury's books have won many prizes. Blue Skin of the Sea won the Bank Street Child Study Association Children's Book Award; Under the Blood-Red Sun won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, the Oregon Book Award, Hawaii's Nene Award, and the California Young Reader Medal; Shark Bait won the Oregon Book Award and a Parents' Choice Silver Honor; Lord of the Deep won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. He has also written the Calvin Coconut series for younger readers.nbsp;
nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;Graham Salisbury is a recipient of the John Unterecker Award for Fiction and the PEN/Norma Klein Award. Visit him online at

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Zenji Watanabe, 17, is a first-generation Japanese-American living in Hawaii. Based on the story of real-life figure Richard Sakakida, this chronicle introduces readers to the life of a young Japanese American just as Japan and America are becoming combatants in WWII. Zenji's perfect Japanese and English make him a valuable asset, and he is suddenly recruited as a special undercover agent in the U.S. Army Corps of Intelligence Police. Salisbury grew up in Hawaii, and he tells the dangerous tale of Zenji's four-year mission in sharp detail. Throughout, Zenji proves himself to be thoughtful and, important for his ancient cultural heritage, honorable. Fans of Salisbury's other titles in the Prisoners of the Empire historical fiction series will relish the suspense that he skillfully develops and resolves. Give this also to readers who enjoy movies like Argo.--Bush, Gail Copyright 2014 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5 Up-Zenji Watanabe is Nisei, an American with Japanese parents, living in Honolulu on the eve of World War II. As tensions are rising between his parents' homeland and his own, his old ROTC commander offers him secret work away from his home that will utilize his particular language skills. This title is a welcome new angle in historical fiction on the Japanese-American experience during the war, and it is based on a true story. Geared toward middle grade readers, Salisbury is careful not to linger on the more unpleasant and violent aspects of Zenji's time as a POW. Fast-paced and compelling, this title will be enjoyed by voracious and reluctant readers.- L. Lee Butler, Stoughton High School, MA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.