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Dear America Wiki

"I had thought about it all last night. I wasn't going to spend another day hiding under the couch, wondering where everyone was, if they would ever come back, and hoping that the Japanese planes didn't drop a bomb on my head. I was going, and there was nothing she or Dad could do to stop me."
Amber Billows[2]

Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows is a historical fiction book written by Barry Denenberg for the Dear America series. It is the twenty-third book in Dear America and also Denenberg's fourth book for the series. The book was published in October 2001 by Scholastic. It was followed by Jim Murphy's My Face to the Wind.

Amber Billows and her family move to Hawaii shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Book description[]

"Sunday, December 7, 1941
At first I thought I was still dreaming. I heard an incessant droning, like the sound the
China Clipper 's propellers made, only much louder, more high-pitched....
There were hundreds of planes in the sky.... They were coming in unbelievably low, barely clearing the treetops, circling in the sky and then peeling off, forming smaller groups of four and five....
"It's Pearl Harbor! It's Pearl Harbor!" Andy was screaming. He was pointing to the column of black smoke that was rising up in the skies above Pearl Harbor. The smoke was mixing with the rays of the early morning sun, creating an eerie, bloodred sky.


Twelve-year-old Amber Billows lives with her parents, Al and Anne, and older brother Andy in Washington, D.C. The family has lived there for little over a year. Her father's job as a journalist requires them to move to a new city every so often. In early October 1941, he reveals to his family that they are moving to Hawaii next. Amber is upset by the news and wonders why they never move during the summer like most people. Nevertheless, she accepts it relatively quickly. Her best friend Allison, on the other hand, gets mad and refuses to speak to her for a while.

Days before the family leaves, she and Allison are able to make up. Amber agrees to write her, though she is a horrible pen pal. After two long flights, the Billows' arrive on the island of Oahu where they settle into a new house. Amber meets the friendly Kame Arata, who is a Japanese-American, on the first day of school. The two become close friends quickly. She later invites Amber to her house to help her with her homework. There she confides in Amber that she feels unwanted in her traditional family, feeling more comfortable with her "modern" aunt.

Amber and her father meet Mr. Poole, a bookshop owner. Al immediately takes to him and later invites him over for Thanksgiving. The day does not go as plan, due to Mr. Poole butting heads with the another guest, Lieutenant Lockhart. The Lieutenant has negative views on the Japanese, while Mr. Poole has a deep respect for them. Later, Amber and Kame begin preparing for a school dance to take place on December 7. It never happens since early that morning the Japanese army attacks the nearby naval base, Pearl Harbor.

Hawaii is subsequently put under martial law. Amber, meanwhile, becomes busy helping her mother volunteer at the hospital. She discovers Lieutenant Lockhart among the patients. He has had both of his legs amputated. Amber eventually visits Kame and learns that her father was taken away by the military. Amber's father finds out that Mr. Arata is being held for questioning at Sand Island. Before Christmas, the Billows' are saddened to discover that Mr. Poole has passed away in a fire. Kame's family is invited to Christmas dinner at the Billows'. Over dinner, Amber's father reveals that their family is being evacuated the next day. Amber reflects that this diary has been her "shortest" and "saddest."


Kame's father was released from Sand Island in 1942. The entire family was sent to the Jerome Relocation Center in Arkansas for the duration of the war. In 1949, Kame married and had a daughter, Grace, the following year. Kame and her husband were killed in an automobile accident when Grace was fourteen months old. Amber spent many years searching for Kame with the help of her father. After learning of Kame's fate, Amber found Grace in orphanage. She and her husband, a documentary filmmaker, adopted her and raised her in Boston. Grace was their only child. Lieutenant Lockhart and his wife divorced in 1943. He committed suicide a year later.

Historical Note[]

By 1941, the Nazis were terrorizing Europe and the Japanese had its own imperialist campaign in the Far East. Many Americans were reluctant to be involved in another war and supported isolationism. Additionally, several Neutrality Acts were passed in the 1930s to keep America out of foreign conflicts. President Roosevelt had the acts amended in order to aid Great Britain with supplies, but still wished to do more. In 1940, Japan took over Indochina, a French territory close to the American territory, the Philippines. Congress ordered a renewal of America's naval fleet and Roosevelt banned selling certain goods to Japan. In response, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy.

To recover their momentum, Japan was determined to seize natural resources in the Pacific, which "would be impossible unless they defeated America's Pacific fleet first." Hideki Tojo, general of the Japanese Army and newly elected Prime Minister, ordered an attack on Pearl Harbor, where half of the United States naval fleet was docked. Over 2,400 people were killed and 1,178 were wounded. Now at war, Americans were gripped with paranoia and Roosevelt would sign an order for the forcible internment of Japanese Americans. Nearly four years later, America dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan finally surrendered to the Allies. Eighteen photos are included along with a map.


Main article: List of Early Sunday Morning characters
  • Amber Billows, the twelve-year-old daughter of Al and Anne and younger sister of Andy. She moves with her family to Oahu, Hawaii for her father's job.
  • Kame Arata is a Japanese-American girl living in Hawaii. She becomes friends with Amber quickly after she arrives there. Kame's family is deeply affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Main article: Barry Denenberg

Barry Denenberg is a nonfiction and historical fiction author known for writing biographies. He is the author five Dear America books, including When Will This Cruel War Be Over?, So Far from Home, One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping, and Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. He is also the author of Elisabeth: The Princess Bride from The Royal Diaries. Denenberg's The Journal of Ben Uchida from My Name Is America is also set during World War II.


"The author would like to thank Kristen Eberle, Kerry McEneny, Daniel Martinez, Janelle Grey Kensmo, Kylie Kovita, Amy Griffin, Beth Levine, Lisa Sandell, Elizabeth Parisi, Chad Beckerman, Manuela Soares, Kate Lapin, Victoria Maher, and Jeanne Hutter."


  • The portrait on the cover is a photograph from the Devaney Collection at SuperStock. The background is a detail of a photograph of the attack on Pearl Harbor from AP/Wide World.[3][4][5]


See also[]

Arts & Crafts

Dear America

A Journey to the New World | The Winter of Red Snow | When Will This Cruel War Be Over? | A Picture of Freedom
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
West to a Land of Plenty | Dreams in the Golden Country | Standing in the Light | Voyage on the Great Titanic
A Line in the Sand | My Heart Is on the Ground | The Great Railroad Race | The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
A Light in the Storm | Color Me Dark | A Coal Miner's Bride | My Secret War | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
Valley of the Moon | Seeds of Hope | Early Sunday Morning | My Face to the Wind | Christmas After All
A Time for Courage | Where Have All the Flowers Gone? | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall | Survival in the Storm
When Christmas Comes Again | Land of the Buffalo Bones | Love Thy Neighbor | All the Stars in the Sky
Look to the Hills | I Walk in Dread | Hear My Sorrow


The Fences Between Us | Like the Willow Tree | Cannons at Dawn | With the Might of Angels | Behind the Masks
Down the Rabbit Hole | A City Tossed and Broken

External links[]