Before camp



By Ann Malaspina; illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2019, 32 pp., $7.99, paperback)

In this story, a young Jewish boy, Sam, fights conflicting feelings about his Japanese American classmate, Keiko, because of the raging war and the anti-Japanese sentiment pervasive in the community.

He ignores Keiko because of another classmate who tells him that he shouldn’t speak to her because his brother, Mike, is fighting in the war.

Then, Sam notices the Japanese shopkeepers being harassed and realizes that Keiko and her family will be taken away to a concentration camp.

Keiko leaves behind a letter and a special gift for Sam and his brother as she leaves her home for a camp in the desert.

This story is reminiscent of other picture books depicting friendships between Japanese Americans and children of other ethnicities during World War II, such as “The Bracelet” by Yoshiko Uchida. As such, the book was not novel, although the note at the end gave new information on how Jewish and Japanese American residents of Los Angeles lived amicably side by side until the Japanese American community was uprooted.

I recommend this book for children 6-10 as an introduction to the story of the incarceration experiences.

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