“Love in the Library” by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Yas Imamura, has been published by Candlewick.

Set in an incarceration camp where the United States cruelly detained Japanese Americans during World War II and based on true events, this moving love story finds hope in heartbreak.

To fall in love is already a gift. But to fall in love in a place like Minidoka, Idaho, a place built to make people feel like they weren’t human — that was miraculous.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Tama is sent to live in a “war relocation center” in the desert. All Japanese Americans from the West Coast — elderly people, children, babies — now live in prison camps like Minidoka. To be who she is has become a crime, it seems, and Tama doesn’t know when or if she will ever leave.

Trying not to think of the life she once had, she works in the camp’s tiny library, taking solace in pages bursting with color and light, love and fairness. And she isn’t the only one. George waits each morning by the door, his arms piled with books checked out the day before.

Tama and George Tokuda

As their friendship grows, Tama wonders: Can anyone possibly read so much? Is she the reason George comes to the library every day?

Beautifully illustrated and complete with an afterword, back matter, and a photo of the real Tama and George — the author’s grandparents — Tokuda-Hall’s elegant love story for readers of all ages sheds light on a shameful chapter of American history.

Tokuda-Hall is also the author of “Also an Octopus” and “The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea.”

“My daughter’s new children’s book is the true story of my parents meeting in the library of Minidoka Internment camp,” said Bay Area TV personality Wendy Tokuda. “I am glad that this story is being told, but particularly by their granddaughter.”

Critical praise:

“The author’s gentle text captures the resilience of human dignity and optimism even during times of immense challenge and adversity. Imamura’s stunning gouache and watercolor illustrations convey both the setting and the emotions of the characters. . . Tokuda-Hall’s author’s note discussing her grandparents, Japanese internment camps, and the continuing impact of racism caps off this powerful must-read.” — Booklist (starred review)

Maggie Tokuda-Hall

“Simple yet evocative. . . Fluid, dynamic gouache and watercolor illustrations by Imamura (‘Winged Wonders’) spotlight the expressive internees’ individualism amid a bleak landscape, immersing readers. . . Alongside a sensitive introduction to life in Japanese internment camps, this picture book transcends its central romance to encompass love for books, community, and being ‘human.’” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This lovely, inspiring story unfolds in Imamura’s muted art, cushioning the harsh reality of how Japanese Americans were treated during World War II. . . . Tokuda-Hall recounts the true story of how her maternal grandmother and grandfather met in an internment camp in the 1940s and writes a stirring and heartbreaking paragraph about how ‘[h]ate…is an American tradition.’” — School Library Journal (starred review)

“The gentle text shows how, no matter how bleak the outlook, people can find ways to hope, dream, and endure. … Imamura’s soft, exquisite illustrations capture the physical locale, using light and shadow in powerful ways. … An evocative and empowering tribute to human dignity and optimism.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Full-spread gouache and watercolor illustrations along with smaller vignettes immerse viewers in camp life, depicting its hardships without overwhelming young readers. An earth-toned palette nevertheless remains light and hopeful.” — The Horn Book

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