Best Friends Forever: A World II Scrapbook (book)
Creators: Beverly Patt
Book cover. Courtesy of Marshall Cavendish
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Children's book about the friendship between a German American girl and her forcibly removed Japanese American friend in the form of a scrapbook from the year 1942.
Synopsis and Background
The story begins in April 1942, when Louise Margaret Krueger, a fourteen-year-old living on Bainbridge Island , Washington, begins a scrapbook for her best friend, Dottie Masuoka, who was taken away that day with her family to a concentration camp. Louise vows to document the events in Dottie's absence in the scrapbook and to give it to her when she returns. The text of the scrapbook alternates between Louise's diary-like writings and letters from Dottie from the Puyallup Assembly Center . The scrapbook pages also include news clippings, photographs, and various other materials. Over the course of the year, we learn from Dottie about the conditions in the camp along with some of her specific problems: being forced to "babysit" a curmudgeonly Issei woman who teaches her various Japanese traditional behaviors, turmoil caused by her eighteen-year-old cousin Albert's desire to enlist in the army, and her grandfather's depression. While Louise's parents—including her newspaper reporter father—decry what has happened to Japanese Americans, some of her friends turn on her, calling her a "Jap lover." She also worries about her brother, Werner, who enlists in the navy, and about a wounded soldier named Nick Rossi, whom she meets while accompanying her father to a rehab hospital. But when Dottie announces that her family is being moved from Puyallup to another camp, her letters stop coming. Will their friendship survive the war years?
Author Beverly Patt was inspired in part by recalling a story her mother told her about a family from her childhood that "disappeared" during the war. Reminded of that story by a radio piece, she sought out the aunt and uncle of friend, whom she interviewed as background for the book. The couple, David and Margaret Masuoka, were longtime volunteers at the Japanese American National Museum ; she named Dottie "Masuoka" in tribute to them. She modeled Louise in part after her own mother, based on a childhood diary and photo album. Authoring a magazine article first, Patt expanded it into a book. A former special education teacher, Best Friends Forever was Patt's third children's book.
As designed by graphic designer Kirstin Branch, the book looks like an actual scrapbook that contains Louise's seemingly handwritten entries and the various things—photographs, news clippings and other ephemera, and letters from Dottie and later from Nick—she chooses to affix. Some of the documents pasted into the scrapbook were adopted from actual documents, some from the author's personal scrapbook, that Branch doctored so as to match the book's characters. Illustrator Shula Klinger added the many drawings in the scrapbook, many ostensibly by Dottie, who is portrayed as a talented artist. Patt used actual period photographs in the book, including images of own mother as Louise and her father as Nick. Margaret Masuoka's photograph is used to represent Dottie.
Reception and Historical Accuracy
Reviews were uniformly positive, as reviewers praised the design and format as well as the use of personal stories to draw readers into the broader topic of the wartime incarceration.
The events described in the book are generally accurate historically. One major exception—moving the date of the roundup on Bainbridge Island up a month had having Dottie and her family go to Puyallup rather than Manzanar —was done to expedite the story and is mentioned in the concluding "Author's Note." But there are a few other minor errors/implausibilities: Early in the book, Louise writes that Japanese Americans were removed from "all of Washington! California and Oregon, too" (page 6); Japanese Americans from eastern halves of Washington and Oregon were not forcibly removed and Japanese Americans from southern Arizona were also removed. When she doesn't hear from Dottie for a couple of months, Louise writes to War Relocation Authority Director Milton Eisenhower starting in November of 1942 (73); however Eisenhower was long gone by that time, having resigned his position in June of 1942, replaced by Dillon Myer . We learn that Dottie's cousin Albert has enlisted by December 1942 (80); with the exception of a handful of Nisei with particular Japanese language expertise—which there is no indication Albert possessed—such enlistment could not have occurred until the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team a few months later. Finally, we learn that Dottie and her family are moved to the Heart Mountain , Wyoming, camp from Puyallup; essentially everyone from Puyallup was sent to the Minidoka , Idaho, camp.
For More Information
Author website: http://beverlypatt.com/read-me-2/ .
Publisher website: http://www.marshallcavendishebooks.com/product/best-friends-forever .
Yamaguchi, Leslie. " Beverly Patt Interview 'Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook.' " Discover Nikkei , Sept. 16, 2010.
Burkhart, Emma. School Library Journal , April 2010, 166. ["This heartwarming tale of steadfast friendship makes a wonderful access point for learning more about World War II and Japanese internment."]
Bush, Elizabeth. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books , July/August 2010, 497. ["Just when you think the history-as-fictional-scrapbook trick has been pulled once too often, along comes a title that makes it seem fresh."]
Czarnecki, Kelly. VOYA , April 2010, 61. ["Because this novel is written in the form of letters, artwork, and clippings for a scrapbook, readers will be in for a real treat with what feels like a firsthand perspective."]
Kirkus Reviews , March 15, 2010, 261. ["Their account of wartime terror is made more poignant by their resolution to make their lives beautiful and meaningful. The faux-diary format is sure to appeal."]
Publishers Weekly , May 3, 2010, 50. ["The girls' moving stories should inspire readers to learn more about the history of internment."]
Rochman, Hazel. Booklist , Apr. 15, 2010, 55. ["Though the format does look authentic, the hand-written material in different italic scripts can be difficult to read. Still, setting the intense personal story of friends and enemies against the events of World War II is a great way to tell the history."]
Trinkle, Catherine. Library Media Connection , August/September 2010, 79. ["This facsimile of a young teenager's scrapbook feels authentic and is an outstanding example of both presentation and voice for teaching...."]