Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Best Friends Fovever: A World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Patt

I love to look at scrapbooks.  They tell so much in the words and pictures the person keeping the scrapbook chooses to use.  I always had scrapbooks for school, camp, and family when I was growing up.  The 1940s was also a time when scrapbooks were a  popular way of remembering important people, events and other things.

Louise Krueger, 14, begins her scrapbook on April 24, 1942, the day her best friend Dottie Masuaka has just left their Seattle neighborhood with her family to be ?relocated" along with everyone else who is Japanese or Japanese American until the world war is over.   But no one knows what relocation mean and where it is.

Through pictures, journal entries, newspaper clippings, and various mementos that Louise pastes into her scrapbook, the reader learns about how the Japanese were forced to sell homes, furniture, businesses and cars they had worked so hard to get for a fraction of their worth on very short notice;  the kinds of appalling living conditions in slapped together huts or horse stalls they were put into and the attitude of many Americans towards anyone who was Japanese.

But the reader also gets a picture of what life was like for kids during those first few months of war.  New wartime restrictions quickly go into effect: rationing gas and a rubber shortage (tires were impossible to get) means trips are only taken when absolutely necessary; mixing yellow coloring into the white oleo to make it look like butter, the flyer from a Japanese Exclusion meeting about "keeping America for Americans."

Louise also keeps all of Dottie's letters which talk about camp life, her grandfather's difficulty with what has happened, and many of them contain drawing she makes of camp life.  Louise also keeps the program from the May Day Performance and her confirmation, two events she and Dottie had been looking for.  And there's lots of realia - ribbons, notes from friends, flowers, movie stubs.

And, of course, there is talk of boys.  Louise meet a young man who lied about his age to join the Army and ended up in a hospital; Dottie is surprised that a boy they had thought annoying has matured in the camp and the possibility of a camp romance is hinted at.

But then suddenly in September 1942 the letters stop.  And no one is more surprised than Louise and Dottie when they discover why.

This is an interesting way to look at the war.  Anyone of Japanese ancestry was sent to an internment camp aftg\er the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7, 1941.  Though the story is fiction, Beverly Patt got her idea for Best Friends Forever from a story her mother told her as a child and got the details of what it was like for Japanese Americans sent to the internment camps from a couple name Dave and Margaret Masuoka.  The Masuokas gave Patt lots of details that helped her create and give depth and a sense of authenticity to the character of Dottie.  You can read more about how Patt researched and created the scrapbook Louise keeps in an interview at Discover Nikkei.

Be sure to read the Author's Note at the back of the book where Patt gives more background information for writing Best Friends Forever.  And she includes an interesting Bibliography for anyone who might want more information about the internment of the Japanese during WWII.

This is a wonderful book for introducing this aspect of WWII history to young readers and to help that, you will find a very useful Teacher's Guide HERE.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

1 comment:

  1. This book really appeals to me because of the unique style and the storyline. I am curious to know why the letters stop. I have read other books about this aspect of WWII and will be adding this one to my list. Thanks for sharing.