When I entered a local independent bookstore last month, I gravitated toward a particular picture book on display- Love in the Library. There was something about the cover, its title, the summary inside the book jacket, and the author's note. Ah, yes! That gut-wrenching author's note gracing this book's final pages immediately drove me to the checkout line with a copy of this book in hand. I HAD to have this book in my very own library collection.
Little did I know that within a few months of my purchase, I would come across tweets and media scrutinizing a major publishing company that wanted to expand readership by offering a contract to license the author's book with specific edits. These suggested edits made me cringe.
Of course, the author immediately declined the offer (read her statement here and see the response of the publishing company here), and her public actions served as an open dialogue regarding how the voices of marginalized groups (and authors) are often silenced.
So I wanted to support authors and illustrators who work diligently for pennies on a dollar in hopes of sharing their own stories to shape our own.
Love in the Library is the story of Maggie Tokuda-Hall, who shares the true story of how her maternal grandparents met in a camp, fell in love, and ultimately wrote their own story. Her story also touches on the trials and tribulations faced by Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Racism and the Executive Order of 9066 are what you need to keep in mind when reading her story. Ultimately, this story serves to remind us of the importance of why we need to learn from history and others.
Every story deserves to be heard.
Learning From History
This picture book is set in the context of World War II and the incarceration camps that imprisoned Japanese Americans. A specific base on which this story is centered around is Camp Minidoka, in which the author's maternal grandparents found hope amid a hopeless situation.
Learn more here if you need a refresher on Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 that led to U.S. incarceration camps.
The harsh reality of these camps was that they were uncomfortable, unjust, and unnecessary.
Visit the History Channel to build your knowledge.
The Magic of Books...and a Library
The two main characters in this story, Tama (the camp librarian) and George, figure out that books evidently serve as an escape from their torment and unwanted environment. The story also subtly hints that books serve as a portal for some, as a connection for others, and as something deemed miraculous-specifically for Tama.
Pressed between their covers were words that planted seeds in the garden of Tama's mind. How magical that-even in Minidoka-such a small little library could fit so much inside of its four walls!
Tama kept a word for that, too, nestled close to her heart. "Miraculous," she whispered.
As we turn the pages of this story, we, as readers, find a new story evolving between Tama and George. As the title suggests, they ultimately find love in the library.
Who would have thought that books could bring people together? *wink*
Yas Imamura. That's all that needs to be said.
But if you're not familiar with Yas Imamura's artwork, you will see in this picture book lush illustrations grounded in the root of the story that is brought to life with each stroke. The color pallet is warm and gentle, a complete contrast to the context of this story. The illustrations that fill this picture book are also realistic, moving, and portrayed as small vignettes that encapsulate the hard truths that existed within the camp.
The artwork in this book is mesmerizing and tells its own story with the turning of every page.
With a great book such as Love in the Library comes along the opportunity to have and build conversations through some thought-provoking questions. Some questions that come to mind include:
What do books do for you?
What are your thoughts about Tama and George's situation?
What part of the book tugged at your heart and why?
Were there any connections that you could make with this particular read?
Why do you think the author felt the need to share this story?
Do you know about the history of these internment camps? If not, would you like to inquire independently, with a partner, or in a collaborative group?
What was your favorite illustration? Tell me more.
What was your favorite quote? Tell me more.
What were some things that you noticed in the book?
What are some questions that are still lingering in your mind about this book?
Candlewick also provides a Teaching Guide that is filled with additional discussion questions and activities.
Building Book Stacks
Here are some essential books regarding immigration and/or concentration camps that I recommend.
(Click the link/image below to purchase a copy)
One final suggestion I'd make when it comes to bringing books to life is to take students on a virtual visit and allow them to inquire more about the subject matter. Here are some of my personal favorites.
Here's to valuing stories and learning from the pages within!