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Review: Take What You Can Carry

Esther Keller

Take What You Can Carry is the story of two boys. The first is Ken, a Japanese American boy. During World War II, Ken is sent to live in a relocation camp while his father is in government custody.  In order to help his mother and sister survive, Ken turns to stealing. The second is Kyle, a bored suburban teen living forty years later. Kyle turns to stealing for kicks. When he is caught and put in jail, he is offered a chance to work off his debt instead. What he doesn’t realize is that his second chance stems, in part, from Ken’s past experience.

Take What You Can Carry
Kevin C. Pyle
Grades 7 and up
2012, Henry Holt, ISBN 978-0-8050-8286-9,
$12.99, 176 pp.

take carry 200x300 Review: Take What You Can CarryKen’s story is told wordlessly in sepia tones. Pyle captures the stunning surrounding of the camp at Manzanar, contrasting it heavily with the horrors of the camp itself. Kyle’s story is told in blue tones, though there is dialogue and narration. Readers will rely heavily on the artwork to understand and appreciate both stories, as this title is driven by the artwork, and not the text.

Though this graphic novel stands entirely on its own, and can be studied on its own, Take What Your Can Carry is an excellent choice for educators covering the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. It also makes a great tie-in with other stories such as Yuchiko Uchida’s The Bracelet (1993). I’ve been steering middle grade students to this title — especially students who read and liked Maus — but I don’t believe they’ll pick it up on their own.  (When I gave this to one student who was devouring all my World War II-related comics she said that she enjoyed this title very much.)

A worthy purchase and a title readers young and old shouldn’t miss.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Henry Holt & Co.

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 3 and regularly reviews for SLJ, LMC. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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