Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind

By Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Amiko Hirao. Charlesbridge, 2018. 32 pages. $16.99/hardcover; $9.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 4–8.

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When some of Clara Breed’s youthful patrons at the San Diego County Library told her they were to be interned during World War II, she saw them off at the station in 1942 with stamped postcards asking them to tell her where they were living and what they were doing. They were held briefly at Arcadia, where she visited them, and later at a bleak camp in Poston, Ariz., where she sent books, seeds, thread, soap, and craft supplies. Replicas of some of the postcards they sent are superimposed on the light colored-pencil illustrations.

Here is how the book explains their plight: “The U.S. government thought Katherine and all people of Japanese heritage living on the West Coast could be dangerous. They looked like an enemy of the United States in a complicated war halfway around the world, so the government ordered that they be imprisoned.”

The period photographs on the endpapers and the addenda describing Clara Breed’s life and “Selected History of Japanese People in the United States” make this book valuable for children slightly older than the early elementary audience for whom the story seems intended. Homes and First-day schools should find this a valuable addition, especially in these days when where you live and where your family came from seem more important than usual.

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