Monday, December 14, 2020

Review - A Scarf for Keiko

A Scarf for Keiko

by Frances Watts
illustrated by Ann James
Date: 2020
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

It's 1942. Sam's class is knitting socks for soldiers and Sam is a terrible knitter. Keiko is a good knitter, but some kids at school don't want anything to do with her because the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and her family is Japanese American. When Keiko's family is forced to move to a camp for Japanese Americans, can Sam find a way to demonstrate his friendship?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

A Scarf for Keiko tells the story of Sam, a young boy living in 1942. His classmate, Keiko, is Japanese American, and is eventually sent to an internment camp with her family. Sam finds a way to show Keiko that he's still her friend.

This is an important story that needs to be told (and retold), especially today when governments are so willing to use propaganda to demonize one group of people and turn others against them. The internment of those of Japanese descent happened in the United States, as is mentioned in the author's note, but it also happened in Canada along a similar timeline. My grandmother went to school with a girl who, along with her family, was forced to give up nearly everything and move away from the Pacific coast... for "safety" reasons (people of Japanese descent were assumed to be Japanese spies). Only years later did the governments of the two countries finally apologize for what they'd done to these innocent people.

This book is a simple story, with basic illustrations in a limited colour palette. I can't say that I'm enamoured with the aesthetic of the book, although the muted colours do suggest the 1940s.

Still, I think this is an important book for kids to read. I haven't come across a lot of picture books that explore this particular event in history. It's important to remember what can happen when fear and xenophobia are allowed to go unchecked... and that just because a government orders something, it doesn't make it right.

Quotable moment:

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

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