Stealing Home by J. Torres, illustrated by David Namisato

Stealing Home by J. Torres, illustrated by David Namisato. Kids Can Press, 2021. 9781525303340

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover graphic novel

What did you like about the book?  This Canadian graphic novel import opens in British Columbia in 1941 as hundreds of Japanese-Canadian families gather to watch the Asahi baseball team. Life is peaceful, prosperous and, for Sandy anyway, baseball focused. As World War II begins for North America, Sandy and his family are slowly and consistently discriminated against until they end up in a government-run concentration camp located in one of the old mining camps in Canada’s interior. There the family waits for Papa (who is a doctor and imprisoned elsewhere) to return but when he does he is made responsible for the health of the camp. Sandy is still razor focused on baseball and can’t understand why his father is not. After a long illness (tuberculosis?) Sandy is released from the hospital to a baseball team of his father’s creation. In between we see and hear the “we can make-do” attitude of the characters but the graphics show the horrors of the “camp” – shacks with no insulation in the dead of winter, sparse food, lack of access to family, guards… Sandy and his family survive the camp but when they are released they do not return to their home on the west coast of Canada, instead they remove to Toronto where the author was born. In the afterword we learn of the author’s personal story, the story of the Japanese-Canadians who just happened to live in British Columbia and the stories of the concentration camps. Mostly we learn about the deep, embedded racism found in western North America and the devastation that Japanese Canadians endured (and Americans) during WWII. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  I’m so pleased to see that there are multiple books being published around the subject of Japanese internment during WWII – I especially love that they are for various age groups. Look to Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki for a picture book version, They Called Us Enemy by George Takei (yes, that George Takei) for another great graphic novel and Dear Miss Breed by Joanne Oppenheim and When Can We Go Back to America by Susan Kamei for compilations of letters and life stories of people in the camps.

 Who should buy this book? This is a book for all ages – elementary schools, middle and high schools and public libraries should all purchase it.

Where would you shelve it? Graphic novels

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes – the subject is incredibly important

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Pam WattsFlavin, Head of Children’s Services, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA 

Date of review: October 21, 2021

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