Take What You Can Carry


This graphic novel opens with a panel showing mountaintops. As each scene pans away, more of the landscape is shown, and in the distance the reader can glimpse a structure. On the following pages we learn that it is a relocation camp for Japanese Americans. Ken is a young man who, like so many others, is forced from his home during World War II. As the story progresses, we see Ken struggle with his new life and learn to adapt.

Kyle’s parallel story takes place in Chicago in 1978. Kyle is a troubled teen who trespasses on other people’s property, breaks things that aren’t his, and steals without thinking about the consequences. When Kyle finally gets caught stealing and faces jail time, the store’s owner agrees not to press charges if Kyle works for him. Kyle agrees, and in doing so learns a valuable lesson.

The two stories are woven together predictably, as each boy comes of age through these trying experiences, but the narratives are contrasted in interesting ways. Ken’s story is told in muted tones of black and brown, while Kyle’s is told in blue and white. The different palettes and different historical backdrops offer a unique contrast, while emphasizing the fact that some emotions and experiences never change over the decades.

A historical notes section is included in the back, which fills in some important information on Japanese-American traditions that is difficult to fully convey in this medium without dialogue. This graphic novel is a nice addition to any school library that is looking for something besides superheroes and manga. However, this book may be used less as a pleasure read and more as a teaching tool to explain what happened to Japanese Americans during World War II.

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(US) $12.99
(CA) $14.99

(US) 9780805082869




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