Sparkle Schoolhouse
FIFTY Study Page: California- "Following your Friends"

FIFTY Study Page: California- "Following your Friends"

“Following Your Friends” is a story about Ralph Lazo and his choice to join his friends in the Manzanar Japanese American Relocation Camp in California. In the spring of 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ralph’s Japanese American friends are told to leave their homes and move to a war internment camp for the duration of the war. Ralph, who is Mexican American, decides to protest the policy by joining Manzanar and remaining with his friends. There he not only sees the terrible conditions of the camp, but he meets some incredible people.

Note: Though this is historical fiction and the characters have been developed to accommodate a story, their attributes and development may be useful as reference points and inspirations.


California History - History of Asian immigration to the west coast - History of World War Two - especially the Pacific campaign - Details of the Japanese Relocation Camps

California Geography - Map of all the relocation camps - Map of Japan in relationship to California - Map of California and distance from Manzanar to Los Angeles

Study Topics for “Following Your Friends” - Japanese American culture - Daily life at the Manzanar Relocation Camp - Biographies of famous detainees


From a Child Development Perspective:

In this story, your child might learn that:

  • Abiding friendship requires commitment. This is a story about loyalty, about standing by your friends and staying true to your convictions.

  • Sometimes we have to do what we know is the right thing even if it means personal discomfort and sacrifice, even if it means that we don't always play by the rules in order to stand up for what we know is right. Ralph had to endure great challenge in following his friends, but there was no question to him but that he had no choice. In spite of the difficulties, there was ease in knowing he was doing right by his friends.

  • Sometimes our love for our friends or family makes it such that the sacrifices that we make for them come from a place of deep joy. Ralph’s life in the camp was not easy, but he was glad to endure the conditions for the sake of the loyalty he felt to his friends.

  • True friends stick together! Ralph stood by his friends because they had had stood by him. When the Mexican-Americans in Ralph’s school didn't embrace him. he was taken up by his Japanese-American friends. No cultural/racial differences, political unrest or worldly worries or disputes among nations was going to get in the way of that.

  • Sometimes friendship is heartbreaking. When we risk being so attached to someone, we also risk that they will leave. In addition, \when we love and empathize with our friends, also feel the pain that they experience.

  • One can endure hardship when surrounded by loving friends, but also when one keeps a positive attitude. Aiko spoke about the gardens, Gordon loved the orchards, Sue appreciated that there was time for writing, and Yoshito was grateful to be able to go to school. And all of this was within the barbed wire fence of the relocation camps.

  • Even when one has to endure difficult odds, surviving challenging circumstances can contribute to getting skills to be an even more productive and successful adult. Sue became an activist Gordon a cell biologist. Aiko took political action against relocation camps. Especially when your friends are at your side! None of them let their confinement to define what they are capable of. From the story:

    “Don’t let others tell you who you are or what you are supposed to do with your life” he often told them, “And if you are feeling doubtful or unsure, just look to your friends. True friends will be there for you … no matter what.”

About the Authors

David Sewell McCann

Story Spinner

David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.

Meredith Markow

Sparkle Schoolhouse Head of School

Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.

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