Japanese-American Internment: Books for Kids and Young Adults

These books for kids and teens tell the stories of Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps during World War II. They include picture books, novels, autobiographies, non-fiction collections, and graphic novels; many are set before and during the war, while others are more contemporary and look back at the internment camps and their painful legacy. These books provide an excellent entry into discussions about this period of U.S. history, civil rights, and social justice. For teachers interested in continuing discussion of the 1944 Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United Sates, see this article from The Washington Post.

Behind Barbed Wires: Japanese-American Internment Newspapers

Behind the barbed wire of assembly centers and relocation centers around the country during World War II, interned Japanese-Americans produced newspapers to chronicle the stories and experiences of their community in a time of crisis. Students can see this newspapers online in this Library of Congress collection.

 

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow

Age Level: 6-9

This book, based on experiences of the author's mother and grandparents, tells the story of a Japanese American family relocated to an internment camp in Utah. Even in the harsh landscape of the desert, a young girl is able to find beauty in unlikely places, and to re-establish her identity through art, by drawing what she remembers of her life before coming to the camp. Historical notes included. Bilingual English and Japanese.

Baseball Saved Us

During World War II, Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps. Isolated and bored, baseball became a life and soul-saving pastime which successfully brought very different people together. Darkly hued illustrations evoke the difficulty of the time, based on the author's family story. Spanish version available.

Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference

In the early 1940's, Clara Breed was the children's librarian at the San Diego Public Library. But she was also friend to dozens of Japanese American children and teens when war broke out in December of 1941. The story of what happened to these American citizens is movingly told through letters that her young friends wrote to Miss Breed during their internment. This remarkable librarian and humanitarian served as a lifeline to these imprisoned young people, and was brave enough to speak out against a shameful chapter in American history.

Farewell to Manzanar

This is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention as seen through the eyes of Jeannie, the youngest daughter of the Wakatsuki family. The family was detained for four years at the Manzanar Internment Camp during World War II.

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up

Illustrated by: Yutaka Houlette
Age Level: 12-14

From School Library Journal: "A compelling blend of free verse, expository text, and artwork illuminates the life and times of Japanese American activist Fred Korematsu. Growing up in Oakland, the child of Japanese immigrants, Korematsu was a typical American kid, joining the Boy Scouts and dancing to big band music.

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War

Age Level: 12-14

With a white mother and a Japanese father, Koji Miyamoto quickly realizes that his home in San Francisco is no longer a welcoming one after Pearl Harbor is attacked. And once he's sent to an internment camp, he learns that being half white at the camp is just as difficult as being half Japanese on the streets of an American city during WWII.

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II

Age Level: 12-14

Sandler expertly crafts a narrative that manages to explain the horror and incomprehensibility of locking up American citizens in prison camps simply because of their ethnic ancestry. Japanese American relocation has long been expurgated from school history texts about World War II, and here this delicate topic is handled with sensitivity and insight, providing an in-depth look at the full story, from anti-Japanese sentiments during the first wave of immigration through more current issues such as redress.

So Far from the Sea

Illustrated by: Chris K. Soentpiet
Age Level: 9-12

All the more moving in its restraint, this picture-book account of a fictional family reveals, with gentle dignity, a sad chapter in American history. Laura Iwasaki and her Japanese-American family will soon move from California to Boston, so they are making one last visit to Laura's grandfather's grave, which lies near the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so far from the sea he loved. Before World War II, he was a fisherman. Then, along with Laura's father, her grandmother, and 10,000 other Japanese Americans, he was sent to the Manzanar War Relocation Center.

Sylvia & Aki

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle; all she wanted was to enroll in school. Aki Munemitsu never expected to be relocated to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert; all she wanted was to stay on her family farm and finish the school year. The two girls certainly never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected in Southern California during a time when their country changed forever. Based on a true story.

The Bracelet

Age Level: 9-12

Emi is filled with sadness as she prepares to leave her home for the internment camp where she and her fellow Japanese-Americans will be forced to live. Just before she leaves, her best friend Laurie brings her a special bracelet so that Emi will not forget her. When Emi loses the bracelet though in the crowds, she feels that has lost so much more and even more alone — until she realizes that maybe she doesn't need the bracelet to remember Laurie after all.

Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II

Age Level: 12-14

The Japanese American internment during World War II is the subject of National Book Award finalist Marrin’s historical nonfiction book for adolescents. He ties together chronological events with thematic elements (how racism operated during World War II) to tell the story of this dark time in U.S.

Weedflower

Age Level: 12-14

Sumiko and her family are shipped to a Japanese internment camp in one of the hottest places in California after the events of Pearl Harbor. She was raised in California on a flower farm and now instead of flowers, she must endure dust storms regularly. In her old life she was accustomed to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Now they find themselves on an Indian reservation and are as unwelcome there as anywhere. She finally finds a friend in one Mohave boy. There they do their best to rebuild their lives and create a community.