Written as historical fiction, this is a true story about a girl whose family made an unusual choice in 1945: to work in two of the incarceration centers where thousands of Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Helen was twelve years old when she spent a year at Camp Amache in Colorado and Tule Lake Segregation Center in California. An ‘outsider on the inside,’ she made friends with kids who had been living behind barbed wire fences, under the scrutiny of armed guards, for three years. A perceptive and compassionate child, Helen struggled to understand the factors that led to this situation and was touched deeply by the tragedy unfolding before her. At the same time, she was intrigued by the beauty of the Japanese culture and found ways to have fun with her new friends within the confines of the camp. Helen never forgot this experience and shared her story seventy- five years later for young readers.
Aimed at young readers, Two Days and One Suitcase frankly explores disturbing aspects of this history (the lack of privacy in the camps, the mandated communal bathrooms, the government’s stripping of safety and sovereignty from its citizens), Neuberger and Parra don’t delve too deeply into the specific atrocities. The result is successful—age appropriate without shying away from the harsh realities. The authors include some overtly educational elements, with many chapters focused on vocabulary expansion, an introduction that lays out the historical basics, and an appendix.
The story follows a young woman’s observations over a short time period, meaning readers should not expect traditional plot progression, and the lack of distinct beginning, middle, and end may be discouraging to young readers.There is very little in-depth focus on anyone but Helen and her sister–her father’s work, though interesting, remains in the background. But this is a fast-moving, thoughtful book, one that finds a young woman driven to memorialize a blemish on American history—and offering an education to readers today.
Takeaway: This true story, following a young woman’s drive to document injustice at a Japanese internment camp, is a staunch reminder to stand up to prejudice.
Great for fans of: Matt Faulkner’s Gaijin, Barry Denenberg’s The Journal of Ben Uchida.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: A-
The book tells about the period of U.S. history at the end of World War II. While most people were happy when Japan surrendered and the last of the war’s combat had ended, tens of thousands of American citizens were left not knowing what their future would be. These citizens were being held prisoner, in camps run by their own government in remote areas of the western United States. They had done nothing wrong – other than being of Japanese ancestry. The prisoners in these camps included men, women, and children.
This book recounts the true story of the Hannan family. Lawrence is the army officer and father who decides to take reassignment to one of these camps instead of returning to his civilian life as a lawyer. His wife, Nelle, and children, Mari, Larry, and Helen (the co-author) go with him, and the whole family quickly learns that the rule of law, moral code about how we treat our neighbors, and even what it means to be an American, can change suddenly and terribly when a society is confronted with fear and prejudice.
Learn about how one family helped bring hope back to a group of Americans who had been told they are no longer welcome in their own country. While the father fights the legal battles to restore these citizens the rights that should never have been taken away, the rest of the family tries to restore some humanity to the harsh life in the camps.
This book teaches that one must always stand up to the wrongs of the world and fight for what is right and just, even when the rest of the world seems to be doing the opposite.