How a teacher’s letters helped JA inmates


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

By Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Amiko Hirao. (Watertown, Mass.: Charlesbridge, 2018, 32 pp., $16.99, hardcover)

This tenderly illustrated book is a thoroughly researched account of the correspondence via postcards between Clara Breed, a children’s librarian in San Diego, and her enthusiastic patrons, Japanese American children who were incarcerated in Poston, Ariz., with their families during World War II.

Before the children were sent away, Breed gave them books and self-addressed postcards, and said “Write to me.” This exchange continued throughout the war.

The book includes selected actual postcard messages from a variety of children: 

Dear Ms. Breed,
We are now in a strange place… 
I doubt whether this is even on the map.
Bye, Jack Watanabe 

Dear Ms. Breed,
I received your book the day after I came back from the hospital… it kept me from being lonesome. 
Truly yours, 
Elizabeth Kikuchi

The book is warmly and accurately illustrated and includes photographs that will create the historical context even for very young children. For older readers there are timelines, historical and source notes and suggestions for further reading, both in print and online. As a teacher and lover of children’s books, I highly recommend this book both for children in the primary grades, as well as educators and family members.

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