Growing up in Honolulu in the late 1930s is a good life for Zenji. He is surrounded by good friends and a great family. The only dark spot on his life is the fact his father was killed in an accident at Pearl Harbor before he was 10. It was hard growing up without a father, but his older brother Henry is always there for him.
Zenji has just finished high school and is trying to decide what to do with his life when he gets an unexpected visit from his high school JROTC officer. Colonel Blake says he has a proposition for Zenji because Zenji is so good with speaking and reading Japanese and being very proficient in English as well. While Zenji’s mother is totally against him going into the army, Zenji isn’t, and wants to see the world beyond the islands. After exhaustive testing, Zenji is admitted into the army as a CIP or member of the Corps of Intelligence Police. Basically, he will become a spy for the army.
His first assignment is to go by boat to the Philippines and stay at a hotel in Manila where a lot of Japanese business men like to stay. At first, Zenji isn’t sure how he’ll be able to help his country by spying in a hotel on Japanese businessmen. But as he spends more time in the city, he begins to realize that the tensions between the United States and Japan aren’t going away, and war might be coming faster than anyone expected.
Hunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury is a fascinating look at the spying involved in World War II in the pacific theater. Zenji knows if he is captured by the Japanese they will look at him as a traitor to their country, even though he isn’t a Japanese citizen. If they know he is a spy, he’ll be killed. Zenji has to walk a fine line to stay live.
Recommended for students who enjoy reading books about World War II and a look at something other than combat. Due to torture scenes in the book, it is recommended for mature 8th graders.