24 Jan / Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Yas Imamura [in Shelf Awareness]
“This is a true story. Mostly,” Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Squad) explains in her author’s note in Love in the Library, both a revealing exposé of unjust history and an exceptional tribute to love. Tokuda-Hall’s maternal grandparents are Tama, a librarian, and George, the library’s most constant patron. What might seem a quotidian situation is anything but: Tama and George are among 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent imprisoned during World War II at a time that “being Japanese American … was treated like a crime.” The pair have been held “for a year already” behind barbed wire and towers with armed guards at Minidoka, one of 10 prison camps in the western United States. Tama’s love of books sustains her through “constant questions. Constant worries. Constant fear.” Also constant is George, who visits daily to check out more books. So is his big smile. Despite their abhorrent situation, Tama learns to smile back.
“Even under those circumstances, that terrible injustice, Tama and George found love,” Tokuda-Hall marvels. Artist Yas Imamura (The Gravity Tree) uses gouache and watercolor to create remarkable illustrations that haunt, delight, and capture the couple’s “improbable joy.” Imamura favors browns and greens to capture the bleak desert landscapes but includes touching details that inspire and uplift: a beloved book held tight, clasped hands, children at play, tin-can-potted blooming flowers. Most extraordinary is the breadth of Imamura’s expressions. George and Tama’s story is decades old, but “it’s very much the story of America here and now,” Tokuda-Hall reminds readers – of white supremacy, police violence, voter suppression. Finding love, as exemplified by George and Tama, is the hopeful antidote.
Discover: Library books and love sustain two young Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II in Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s exceptional picture book homage to her maternal grandparents.