Finding hope behind bars



By Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Yas Imamura (Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2022, 40 pp, $18.99, hardcover)

To many of us, the wartime incarceration is an impossible story. We thought we were free. We are American citizens with all the privileges that holds. So we find it impossible to believe that our own country could legally confine our parents and our grandparents in camps, under lock and key.

The book I’ve reviewed is “Love in the Library” by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, who shares her grandparents’ story and journal. This is a story about two young Nisei named Tama and George who met and married in the Minidoka incarceration camp in Idaho for Japanese Americans during World War II.

This book gives us a very personal, hopeful glimpse of how our parents and grandparents were locked up to endure confinement for three years. It’s a treat for me to let you know about this cute, sweet little children’s book.

The heroine is a young woman named Tama. She’s a librarian at Minidoka. She said she lived in “constant fear,” but she had a boyfriend named George. George was miraculous and he visited her at the library in the camp where she worked.

She said she was “scared and sad and confused and frustrated and lonely and hopeful.” George said she was just “human.” George asked her to marry him! Voila! They were married and rejoiced when they had a son born in Minidoka. Tama wrote in her journal that “the miracle is in us: As long as we believe in change, in beauty, in hope.”

Illustrations are by Yas Imamura. They are stylish and should be interesting to young readers.

The publisher lists the reading level as ages 6 to 9 years. Because of the tough topic, concepts, terms, and the illustrations, parents spending time with younger children and helping to explain would be valuable. Middle school students will also get a lot out of this book.

There is also a teacher’s guide at the Website with discussion questions and classroom activities.

Twila Tomita, a retired public elementary school teacher, reviews children’s books for the Nichi Bei Weekly and writes from Sacramento, Calif. If you would like to suggest a good children’s book for her to review, please send the name, author, and a short description to

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