cover image Love in the Library

Love in the Library

Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illus. by Yas Imamura. Candlewick, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0430-8

Love blooms in the Idaho desert at the Japanese prison camp called Minidoka in this stirring, compassionate narrative inspired by the experiences of Tokuda-Hall’s (Squad) Japanese American maternal grandparents. Employing simple yet evocative language (“Though each camp was different, they were all the same. Uncomfortable and unjust”), the author follows word-loving volunteer librarian Tama as she struggles to name her shifting emotions in the camp, where internees suffer from extreme weather conditions, a lack of privacy—the library window’s foremost view of a guard tower offers a constant reminder—and inhumane treatment. “But she could not think of a word that was right. She was scared and sad and confused and frustrated and lonely and hopeful.” The constant smiles and companionship of George, the small library’s consistent patron, soon prove comforting—and lead to something more. Fluid, dynamic gouache and watercolor illustrations by Imamura (Winged Wonders) spotlight the expressive internees’ individualism amid a bleak landscape, immersing readers via era-specific wardrobes and hues. Alongside a sensitive introduction to life in Japanese internment camps, this picture book transcends its central romance to encompass love for books, community, and being “human.” Back matter features a striking author’s note that provides further context and draws effective contemporary parallels, plus a photograph of the real-life Tama and George. Ages 6–9. (Jan.)