Passage to Freedom

By Ken Mochizuki
Illustrations by Dom Lee

Ken Mochizuki

Passage to Freedom is my first foray into children's picture book nonfiction. Being nonfiction, I could not construct a story to suit my own creative desires – I had to reconstruct what had already happened.

There was no choice but to approach the story of Chiune Sugihara, also known as the "Japanese Schindler," like a journalist. At first, scrambling for any shreds of information, I was most fortunate when I received a copy of Visas for Life, written by Sugihara's wife, Yukiko, and handed to me personally by their son, Hiroki Sugihara. This book provided the basic factual information, but then arose the real challenge: How would I tell this story from the point of view of Hiroki Sugihara, who was only five years old when this story took place?
Passage spot

I interviewed Hiroki for several hours via long-distance phone calls between my residence in Seattle and his in San Francisco. Having someone recall specific incidents that occurred over 50 years ago is no easy task for both the interviewee and the interviewer. However, when Hiroki committed himself to the task of remembering, he could very well.

The more involved I became in Hiroki's story of his father's remarkable act of humanity, the more convinced I was that the narrative needed to be in the first person, but with Hiroki telling the story in retrospect, in the tone of one who knows now what he didn't understand then.

The basic theme of my first book, Baseball Saved Us, was the power of positive thinking and believing in oneself. One of the themes implicit in my second book, Heroes, was the definition of a hero as one who knows that actions speak louder than words. Readers of all ages have related to at least some aspect of these books. Passage to Freedom is about the moral choice: Does one do what is considered "correct" at the time? Or does one do what is "right" for all time?

I consider Chiune Sugihara as one of my personal heroes, a man willing to suffer the consequences and risk his life and career to save the lives of others. I've dedicated Passage to Freedom to those who place the welfare of others before themselves. Courageous, unselfish actions need to be applauded and reinforced.

About This Title

Guided Reading:




Interest Level:

Grades 1 - 6

Reading Level:

Grades 2 - 3


Nonfiction, War, Responsibility, Overcoming Obstacles, Multiethnic interest, Jewish Interest, Immigration, History, Heroism, Fathers, Families, Discrimination, Asian/Asian American Interest, Empathy/Compassion, Integrity/Honesty , Leadership, People In Motion, Persistence/Grit, Respect/Citizenship, World War II, Pride, Collaboration, Courage, Gratitude, Protest, Tolerance/Acceptance


Asian/Asian American English Collection Grades 3-5, Asian American English Collection Middle School, Biography and Memoir Middle School, Fluent Dual Language , Fluent English, Biography and Memoir Grades 3-6, Appendix B Diverse Collection Grades 3-6, Nonfiction Grades 3-6, Father's Day Collection, Bilingual English/Spanish and Dual Language Books , High-Low Books for Preteens (Grades 4-6), Japanese Collection, Listening Library, Listening Library, Responsibility/Leadership, Refugee Children's Book Collection, Dual Language Collection English and Spanish, Dual Language Levels N-Z Collection, Teachers' Choices Collection, Jane Addams Children's Book Award Collection, Persistence and Determination Collection, Courage and Bravery Collection, Pedro Noguera Diverse Collection Grades 6-8, Social Activism Collection Grades 3-5, Asian American Collection English 6PK, Immigration Collection, World War II Collection, English Guided Reading Level U, Social Activism Collection, High-Low Books for Teens: Middle and High School, Phonics Read Aloud Collection

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