Book Review: “Love in the Library” by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Illustrated by Yas Imamura

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, “relocating” tens of thousands of people of Japanese descent, including American citizens, to internment camps. People’s lives were uprooted as they were forced from their homes, stripped of property and belongings, and sent away to squalid and destitute prison camps, unsure when (if ever) they would be allowed to return home.

This and other information in Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s author’s note gives context to the story she tells in Love in the Library, about two people who manage to fall in love despite their bleak surroundings. Tama is the librarian at her internment camp; books offer her an escape into a world of color and light, so different from her current surroundings. She loves helping others discover books there, too, including George, who stops by every day to borrow books – and to see Tama. Even in harsh and unjust circumstances, Tama and George find each other, and in doing so, find hope as well.

Love in the Library is a gorgeously – and I mean gorgeously – illustrated story with a seemingly simple message about finding light and love even in the darkest of places. This simplicity is belied by the gravity of Tama and George’s situation: it’s an easy thing to say, but a hard one to do. What makes their story even more remarkable is that it’s a true one – Tama and George are Tokuda-Hall’s grandparents.

I really loved this book, both because it’s a romance that takes place in a library (!) and as a way to introduce young readers to this important part of American history, one that is too often glossed over in celebratory accounts of our contributions to WWII. Do yourself a favor and add a copy to your library today!

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Candlewick, for review.

Buy on Bookshop Buy on Amazon