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.
Ken’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.