Write to Me
Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind
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When Executive Order 9066 is enacted after the attack at Pearl Harbor, children's librarian Clara Breed's young Japanese American patrons are to be sent to prison camp. Before they are moved, Breed asks the children to write her letters and gives them books to take with them. Through the three years of their internment, the children correspond with Miss Breed, sharing their stories, providing feedback on books, and creating a record of their experiences. Using excerpts from children's letters held at the Japanese American National Museum, author Cynthia Grady presents a difficult subject with honesty and hope.
" A beautiful picture book for sharing and discussing with older children as well as the primary audience" — Booklist STARRED REVIEW
"A touching tribute to a woman who deserves recognition" — Kirkus Reviews
"[An] affecting introduction to a distressing chapter in U.S. history and a brave librarian who inspired hope" — Publisher's Weekly
Praise For Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind…
— Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
Against the grim backdrop of the Japanese-American internment camps, white librarian Clara Breed's compassion offered children a ray of hope and a comforting connection to the normal lives they sorely missed. The children's librarian at a San Diego public library, Breed had a close bond with many of her young patrons. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, as these young Japanese-Americans were incarcerated with their families in harsh desert conditions, Breed corresponded with many of them, sending books and art supplies, and wrote articles and letters agitating for justice for the internees. Many pages include quotes from the children's correspondence, now archived at the Japanese American National Museum, which testify to the power of literature to make life more bearable. The text softens the harsh realities of the times, focusing primarily on Breed as a benefactor. "The US government" is named as the enemy, with the pervasive racism and overt hostility of many ordinary Americans going unmentioned. Following the war, readers are told that some Japanese-Americans "feared that they would not be welcome in their old neighborhoods….But others…couldn't wait to come home," even though the fears of the former were often justified and they might well have preferred to return home too. The endpapers feature historical photographs, and the colored-pencil illustrations give a gentle, sepia-toned feel to the book. Extensive endnotes provide valuable context. A touching tribute to a woman who deserves recognition, but it's one that should be complemented by other works.
— Kirkus Reviews
Grady (I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery) recounts, in partial epistolary format, the true story of San Diego children’s librarian Clara Breed, who corresponded with her young Japanese-American patrons while they were interned during WWII. Excerpts from the children’s letters appear as small signed postcards that overlay many of Hirao’s muted colored-pencil illustrations. “Books make the day shorter and happier for us,” one postcard declares; others offer upsetting glimpses into camp life (“We live in a horse stable”). Miss Breed also brought books and small gifts to the children at their Arizona internment camp and advocated in other ways (“She wrote magazine articles. She wrote letters asking for a library and school for the imprisoned children”). Endpapers featuring captioned b&w photographs from that era—one shows Japanese-American children awaiting deportation—cement the story’s context for young readers. This affecting introduction to a distressing chapter in U.S. history and a brave librarian who inspired hope concludes with extensive back matter, including an author’s note, a timeline of Breed’s life, and a selected history of Japanese-Americans in the U.S.
— Publisher's Weekly
Library Lifeline — When World War II started, many of librarian Clara Breed's young patrons were sent to an internment camp for Japanese Americans. Breed handed out postcards, wrote letters, sent books, and showed what it means to be a friend. The book includes snippets from real letters and postcards.
Charlesbridge, 9781580896887, 32pp.
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
About the Author
Amiko Hirao earned a degree in art history in her native Japan and later graduated from Rhode Island School of Design. She has illustrated Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Tulip at Bat (Hachette), and Just What Mama Needs (HMH).