Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook

Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook

Beverly Patt
Illustrator:  Schula Klinger 
Historical Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Marshall Cavendish , 2010   ISBN: 978-0761455776

Louise Margaret Krueger and Dottie Masuoka are the best of friends. The love to go to the movies together, and they were looking forward to being confirmed together. On April 24, 1942 Dottie and her family board a train to go to who knows where, “relocated” by the government because their family is originally from Japan. Louise and her family are furious about this, but there is nothing that they can do. They go to the train station with the Masuokas and do their best to show their support for their friends.

Now that Dottie is gone, Louise begins a scrapbook, which she plans on sharing with her best friend when Dottie is finally allowed to come home. The friends promise to write to one another, and Louise plans on keeping a record of everything that happens while Dottie is away.

On May 3rd Louise gets her first letter from Dottie. Dottie, her family, and hundreds of other Japanese families are the at the Western Washington State Fair grounds. They are living in drafty shacks, with only one room per family. There is nothing to do, so boredom and frustration are their biggest enemies. Louise cannot believe that her friend is having to live in such a place. How could such a thing happen?

The hard part is that Dottie’s forced absence is only one of the many things that Louise has to deal with. She is labeled a “Jap-lover” by some of the kids at school, she works in the family Victory garden (and gets blisters), and she goes to visit some wounded soldiers in a rehab hospital. Louise is appalled by the injuries she sees, and she only manages to write one letter for a boy called Nick whose face is horribly damaged. After getting the words down on paper she is violently sick.

Dottie’s letters keep coming and they are heartbreaking. Her grandfather is taking his imprisonment very badly and Dottie is often on the receiving end of his ire. Dottie does her best to be upbeat, but sometimes her situation is so bad that she cannot find a single thing to be cheerful about. Both girls cannot understand why President Roosevelt has done this. Dottie is American, she and her parents were born in the United States. Why are they being treated so unfairly?

Presented in a scrapbook journal format complete with illustrations, photographs, newspaper clippings, paw prints (from Dottie’s dog who is living with Louise) and Dottie’s letters, this is a fascinating book that brings the story of the Japanese internment to life. The narrative will help young readers to better understand what happened, and how the internments tore lives apart.