Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams's Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Elizabeth Partridge and Lauren Tamaki's Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams' Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration is the unforgettable story of how 120,000 Americans of Japanese decent were imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Their story is told through newspaper clippings, archival photos, captivating illustrations, and the photographs of two of America's most renowned photographers and an imprisoned Japanese American photographer. The Japanese Americans (men, women, and children) imprisoned at the Manzanar camp showed extraordinary perseverance under the most difficult of circumstances, including a protest during which Military Police shoot and kill a teenager and a young man. Seen and Unseen won the American Library Association's 2023 Robert F. Sibert Medal for the Most Distinguished Informational Book for Children published in 2022.
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What's the Story?
SEEN AND UNSEEN begins in the hours after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. government, fearing that anyone of Japanese descent could be a spy or commit sabotage, began arresting leaders of the Japanese American community on the West Coast. In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered 120,00 Japanese Americans be forcibly removed from the West Coast to what the government called "internment camps" but were actually prison camps. Able to bring only what they could carry, they left behind their homes and business, even their pets. One of those camps, Manzanar in California, is featured in the story. Asked by the government to photograph life at the camp, Dorothea Lange was horrified that Americans could be treated in such a way and decided her photos would tell the truth about what was happening. But she always had to have a guard by her side and couldn't photograph guard towers or barbed wire fencing. Her photos of families planting gardens and children in a school without any tables or chairs still tell an important story. A photographer from Los Angeles, Toyo Miyatake, was imprisoned at Manzanar from 1942-45. Using smuggled materials and a homebuilt camera, he secretly took photos of what Lange could not. When the camp asked him to take photos of specials events, he was finally able to openly photograph weddings, celebrations, and birthdays. In the fall of 1943, Ansel Adams was invited to photograph life at the camp. Adams had not been against the internment of Japanese Americans and wanted to show prisoners as "hardworking, cheerful and resilient," so there are lots of smiles in Adam's posed photos. In January 1945, the ban on Japanese Americans living on West Coast was lifted. The prisoners at Manzanar were given $25 and train tickets home.
Is It Any Good?
The engaging layout filled to overflowing with illustrations and photographs delivers a strong message about confronting the hard truths in American history. The graphic-novel-like illustrations in Seen and Unseen are sure to captivate readers who would never willingly pick up a book about history.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about an important question Seen and Unseen asks readers: What makes an American?
Is there a time when you persevered in spite of something being so difficult you wondered if you were up to the challenge?
Why do you think there was more fear and prejudice against Japanese Americans during World War II than against German or Italian Americans?
- Author: Elizabeth Partridge
- Illustrator: Lauren Tamaki
- Genre: History
- Topics: Activism, Book Characters, History
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Chronicle Books
- Publication date: October 25, 2022
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 124
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: February 27, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
They Called Us Enemy
Powerful graphic memoir of actor's internment as a child.
On the Horizon
Haunting free-verse account of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima.
A Place to Belong
Emotional post-WWII story promotes compassion, perseverance.
For kids who love world war II stories and books centering Asians
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