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Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II and a Librarian who Made a Difference

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Overview


A chronicle of the incredible correspondence between California librarian Clara Breed and young Japanese American internees during World War II.

In the early 1940's, Clara Breed was the children's librarian at the San Diego Public Library. But she was also friend to dozens of Japanese American children and teens when war broke out in December of 1941. The story of what happened to these American citizens is movingly told through letters that her young friends wrote to Miss ...

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Overview


A chronicle of the incredible correspondence between California librarian Clara Breed and young Japanese American internees during World War II.

In the early 1940's, Clara Breed was the children's librarian at the San Diego Public Library. But she was also friend to dozens of Japanese American children and teens when war broke out in December of 1941. The story of what happened to these American citizens is movingly told through letters that her young friends wrote to Miss Breed during their internment. This remarkable librarian and humanitarian served as a lifeline to these imprisoned young people, and was brave enough to speak out against a shameful chapter in American history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Booklist 1/1/06
*STAR* Oppenheim, Joanne. Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference. Feb. 2006. 288p. illus. index. Scholastic Nonfiction, $22.99 (0-439-56992-3). 940.53.
Gr. 7–10. Like Michael O. Tunnell's The Children of Topaz (1996), this passionately written history bears witness to the World War II injustices endured by Japanese Americans, from a vantage point of particular relevance to young people. In a poignant introduction, seasoned children's writer Oppenheim explains how her hunt for a former classmate, a Japanese American, serendipitously led her to an Internet profile of San Diego children's librarian Clara Breed, and to a collection of letters written to Breed by her incarcerated Japanese patrons–grateful, illuminating responses to Breed's faithful missives and care packages containing books and other gifts. Although the letters (and interviews with their grown-up authors) form the narrative's bedrock, Oppenheim weaves them into a broader account amplified by photos, archival materials (including a startlingly racist cartoon by Dr. Seuss), and moving quotations from the later reparation hearings: “I was just 10 years old when I became a 'squint-eyed yellow-bellied Jap.'” Along with the basic facts, Oppenheim urges readers to critically interpret primary sources and identify “governmental doublespeak”; the words “incarceration” or “concentration” are consciously employed here as correctives for softpedaling terminology like “internment” and “relocation.” Unclear references in the children's letters are not always annotated, and the recurring discussion of professional concerns facing Breed (whose own letters to the camps have been lost) often seems to cater too obviously to Oppenheim's adult readers. But the aggregate deserves commendation for its sheer quantity of accessible, exhaustively researched information about a troubling period, more resonant now than ever, when American ideals were compromised by fear and unfortunate racial assumptions. Eight pages of unusually readable, wide-ranging endnotes and an exhaustive bibliography conclude, evidence of Oppenheim's all-consuming research process. –Jennifer Mattson

Kirkus 12/15/05 Looking back to a shameful but characteristic chapter in this country's history, Oppenheim wraps an angry account of the U.S. West Coast Japanese-American population's forced removal in the panic following Pearl Harbor around a heartfelt tribute to Clara Breed, a San Diego children's librarian who kept in touch with several of her evacuated young "regulars" and became an advocate for their release. The text is sometimes repetitive or overstuffed with minor details, but—supported by frequent excerpts from letters, passages (pointedly labeled "Testimony") from the 1981 reparation hearings and lines from the author's own interviews with survivors—it not only creates a scathing picture of the living conditions those children and their families were forced to endure, but also bears eloquent witness to their deeply rooted patriotism and unshakable determination to make the best of things, come what may. Supplemented by a range of period commentary and illustrated with rare snapshots, this is rich in primary material and also bears unmistakable relevance in this post-9/11 atmosphere. (bibliography, notes) (Nonfiction. 11+)

VOYA5Q • 3P • M • J •S
Oppenheim, Joanne. Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference, Scholastic.2006.288p. $22.99. 0-439-56992-3.. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Biblio. Notes. Appendix.

In his last year, this reviewer’s father, a Pearl Harbor vet, spent time in a daycare program for dementia victims. Routinely he would return home to recount stories of a fellow daycare resident, a Japanese American woman who had spent time at M

Ruth Prescott
Americans with Japanese ancestry were rounded up and sent to Relocation Camps from March through October of 1942. The United States government said it was for their protection. Later, they were sent from the relocation camps to internment camps; in reality, these camps were "concentration camps." The book contains letters San Diego teens incarcerated during the war wrote to Miss Breed, a librarian in San Diego. Miss Breed, who kept in touch with her "children" by writing letters, sending books and packages to those interned, kept all of the letters she received. Those letters were reprinted in the book with the original spelling and grammar as the teens wrote to her. Use Dear Miss Breed with World War II units about life in the United States during World War II or as part of a racial discrimination unit. While middle school students will under-stand what happened during World War II, this title will be of more interest to high school students.
VOYA
In his last year, this reviewer's father, a Pearl Harbor vet, spent time in a daycare program for dementia victims. Routinely he would return home to recount stories of a fellow daycare resident, a Japanese American woman who had spent time at Manzanar. Her memories are unforgettable, much like the letters and interviews in veteran author Oppenheim's nonfiction recounting relationships between a special librarian and her incarcerated young readers. Clara E. Breed, children's librarian for the San Diego Public Library, celebrated all young readers, and her commitment did not end when Japanese families in the area were torn from their homes and lives following December 7, 1941. Oppenheim collects scores of communications back and forth between Breed and her readers, making inferences, interpreting contexts insightfully. Notes reveal gifts Breed that sent students, along with shopping lists they sent her with money orders. Anger, bitterness, and sadness fill correspondence from older students, aware of injustices forced upon them. Younger readers adapted more readily to conditions at various camps. The volume includes historical sidebars, photographs of letter writers (as children and adults), and rare internment camp pictures. Although some nonfiction written for students is superficial, assuming research versus evidencing it, this book is thoroughly, clearly documented, including chapter notes, acknowledgments, and bibliography. Additional highlights include follow-up on the children and a reunion gathering. Fortunate social studies students will find themselves immersed in this engaging and poignant personal history, demonstrating that a single person can, indeed, make a significantdifference in the lives of many. Memorable? Absolutely. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Scholastic, 288p.; Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Biblio. Notes. Appendix., Ages 11 to 18.
—Patti Sylvester Spencer
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Through letters and recollections, Oppenheim relates the story of a group of young people who were interned during World War II. Breed had come to know many Japanese Americans through her work as the children's librarian at the San Diego Public Library. When the young people were sent to camps in 1942, she began sending letters and care packages of books, candy, and other treats to "her children." She also wrote articles for Library Journal and The Horn Book that articulated their plight. In return, the recipients expressed their gratitude in letters. While their lives were marked by deprivation and uncertainty, their letters reveal an unquenchable optimism. Their story, along with that of Miss Breed, is both remarkable and inspiring, and Oppenheim has done a fine job of assembling these poignant eyewitness accounts. Unfortunately, she muddles her assessment, ladling on a variety of unnecessary details and her own anecdotal experiences. There's a lack of clarity and focus, and though this is a welcome addition to this topic, its appeal will be limited to those familiar with it. Readers seeking a concise, overall perspective would fare better with Michael L. Cooper's Fighting for Honor: Japanese Americans and World War II (2000) and Remembering Manzanar: Life In a Japanese Relocation Camp (2002, both Clarion).-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Looking back to a shameful but characteristic chapter in this country's history, Oppenheim wraps an angry account of the U.S. West Coast Japanese-American population's forced removal in the panic following Pearl Harbor around a heartfelt tribute to Clara Breed, a San Diego children's librarian who kept in touch with several of her evacuated young "regulars" and became an advocate for their release. The text is sometimes repetitive or overstuffed with minor details, but-supported by frequent excerpts from letters, passages (pointedly labeled "Testimony") from the 1981 reparation hearings and lines from the author's own interviews with survivors-it not only creates a scathing picture of the living conditions those children and their families were forced to endure, but also bears eloquent witness to their deeply rooted patriotism and unshakable determination to make the best of things, come what may. Supplemented by a range of period commentary and illustrated with rare snapshots, this is rich in primary material and also bears unmistakable relevance in this post-9/11 atmosphere. (bibliography, notes) (Nonfiction. 11+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439569927
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 589,314
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 1040L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Joanne Oppenheim is the author of more than fifty books for and about children. In addition, she is the president and cofounder of Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, Inc. One of the country’s most highly regarded child development experts, Oppenheim is seen regularly on NBC’s Today show, where she is a contributor.

Her latest book, Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference, came about when Joanne was planning her high school reunion and began searching for Ellen Yukawa, a Japanese American friend. Through her search she discovered the website of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and the letters to Miss Breed. With the National Museum’s help, Joanne eventually found her friend and discovered that Ellen had spent the war years at Poston, the internment camp in Arizona from where the letters to Miss Breed were sent. Eager to write about and share these stories, for three years Joanne Oppenheim worked on this book, locating and interviewing many of Miss Breed’s “children.” Joanne hopes that her readers view this story, not as an isolated event of the past, but rather as an event to keep in our collective memory to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Joanne Oppenheim lives in New York City with her husband and is the mother of three grown children and the grandmother of seven.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    I am a high school sophomore who had to do a research project. I

    I am a high school sophomore who had to do a research project. I was enlightened by reading this book. It is about the young lives of
    Japanese-Americans being taken in to internment camps during WWII and a librarian who gave them hope. The librarian gave these children
    books to read on  a daily basis. She was the city librarian and knew these kids well. She always encouraged reading, which the kids loved.
    Miss Clara Breed, children's librarian, knew the children before they were forced into these camps. As each of the kids were being
    taken she handed them pre-addressed postcards with her address on them. She told the kids to write her when it was safe. All the
    children wrote to her immediately. They were depressed and hated the camps. Miss Clara Breed, librarian, sent the children books to read
    while they were incarcerated. The kids loved her so much, and were thankful of her. They loved reading and just wanted out. She gave 
    them books of all levels. The kids were thankful and even created a library in the camps. Starting the library was hard because they
    started out with only ten books. This is an emotional read, because of the actual letters that are displayed in the book. As a reader i
    could feel there pain and wish i could have helped. Dear Miss Breed, is not only a great book, but an informative book, especially for
    information on internment camps and japanese culture. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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