From left: Gerald Yamada, Mary Battista, Maria Tarasuk, Betty Taira, and Edward Owusu. (Photo courtesy of Gerald Yamada)

ROCKVILLE, Md. — In a ceremony on March 1, Gerald Yamada, president of the Japanese American Veterans Association, officially presented two books on internment camps to Maria Tarasuk, preK-12 program supervisor for social studies for Montgomery County Public Schools, at the Shady Grove Middle School library in Gaithersburg, Md.

The books, both written by Shigeru Yabu and illustrated by Willie Ito, are “Hello Maggie,” which is designed for elementary schools. and “A Boy of Heart Mountain,” which is designed for middle and high schools.

Attending the ceremony were Edward Owusu, principal of Shady Grove Middle School; Mary Battista, SGMS media specialist; Betty Taira, JAVA book project manager; and Terry Shima, executive director of JAVA.

The ceremony was part of JAVA’s ongoing education program to preserve the legacy of the World War II Nisei soldiers. JAVA donated copies of the books for all public schools within the MCPS system.

In response, Dr. Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of schools of MCPS, wrote in a letter to JAVA, “MCPS is pleased to place a copy of each book in the media center of all 200 MCPS schools. In addition, two copies of ‘Hello Maggie’ will be given to each elementary school for use by Grade 5 teachers, and two copies of ‘A Boy of Heart Mountain’ will be given to every high school for use by Grade 9 U.S. history teachers.

“Providing student-friendly, engaging resources about this critical period of American history will help to ensure that the experiences and sacrifices of the Japanese Americans during World War II will not be forgotten. Thank you for your dedication to educating the students of Montgomery County and ensuring that high quality resources are made available for all students.”

Starr also cited JAVA’s past contributions. “JAVA has been a strong partner with MCPS for several years. Past donations have included curriculum materials, resources for teachers, a DVD produced in collaboration with our MCPS TV Team, and teacher training activities regarding the role of Japanese Americans during World War II.”

JAVA purchased the books with donated funds from members and friends.

Yabu was a 9-year old boy in San Francisco when he and his family were sent to Heart Mountain in Wyoming. One day he brought home a wounded magpie, whom he named Maggie. The bird would mimic people and gave the residents of Heart Mountain a healthy diversion from life in an internment camp. When Yabu grew up, he served in the U.S. Navy for four years, including the Korean War.

Ito spent his war years at the Topaz, Utah internment camp. When he grew up he was employed as a cartoonist for Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers. After 45 years in the animation industry, he is now retired and illustrates children’s books.

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