Books on the Japanese Internment Camps
(Grade 1-8)

Japanese Internment Camps

The children's books below tell the tragic story of the Japanese internment camps that were set up during World War II to incarcerate Americans of Japanese ancestry. In total, 10 internment camps were created throughout Western states, and more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly

removed from their homes and resettled in the poor living conditions of the camps. When I was in school, I don't remember learning about the Internment Camps. Now, most teachers devote a portion of their WW2 units to teaching about this sad chapter in our nation's history.

Most of the books listed below are about Japanese internment camps. However, the last book is about the little-known internment of the Aleutian people of Alaska during World War II.

Have fun browsing, and please share any recommendations you have.



Baseball Saved Us
by Ken Mochizuki; illustrated by Don Lee
Baseball Saved Us


* See inside / buy from Amazon
What it's about
Set in a Japanese internment camp during WW2, Baseball Saved Us is the moving story of a young boy and his father, who built a baseball diamond to pull the camp together. Attractive scratchboard and oil illustrations add emotion and detail to the story. "A treasure of a book." (SLJ)

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 1-4        DRA Level: 38 
Difficulty Level: age 4-8      Lexile Measure: AD550L

Awards and Rating
Parent's Choice Award 1993
Average Amazon Rating: 4 stars (23 reviews)






A Place Where Sunflowers Grow
by Amy Lee-Tai; illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
A Place Where Sunflowers Grow


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What it's about
It's WW2, and Mari and her family have been taken to the Topaz Internment Camp with thousands of other Japanese Americans. She's frightened and confused until an art class provides a way for her to express her feelings, and her a new friendship and the budding desert sunflowers bring new hope. Soft watercolor illustrations accompany this book. In their review, SLJ said this story, "with its emphasis on the internees dignity and feelings, offers the gentlest introduction to this tragic episode."

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 1-4         DRA Level: 40  
Difficulty Level: age 4-8      Lexile Measure: 790L  

Awards and Rating
Women's Int'l League for Peace/Freedom 2007
Average Amazon Rating:5 stars (6 reviews)






So Far from the Sea
by Eve Bunting; illustrated by Chris Soentpiet
So Far From the Sea


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What it's about
Before moving out of California, Laura and her family make a final visit to the grave of her grandfather at Manzanar Relocation Camp that her father and his parents were interned during World War II. While there, they discuss the experience of the internees and the impact on her grandfather to be 'so far from the sea' that he so loved. Soentpiet's illustrations are stunning and full of emotion. PW called this book "an exceptionally effective collaboration."

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 2-5         DRA Level:  n/a
Difficulty Level: age 4-8       Lexile Measure: 590L

Awards and Rating
Average Amazon Rating:5 stars(8 reviews)






The Bracelet
by Yoshiko Uchida; illustrated by Joanna Yardley
The Bracelet


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What it's about
A simple picture book that's "indispensable for introducing this dark episode in American history" (SLJ). Young Emi and other Japanese Americans are en route to the Japanese Interment Camps Emi realizes she's lost a cherished friendship bracelet. She's distraught at first, but then she realizes that she doesn't need it afterall because she carries her friend in her heart and her memories. Yardley's "hushed, realistic paintings add to the poignancy of [the] narrative." (PW)  Well done.

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 2-5        DRA Level:  40
Difficulty Level: age 4-8      Lexile Measure: 710L

Awards and Rating
New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book
Average Amazon Rating:4 stars (10 reviews)






The Journal of Ben Uchida
Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp by Barry Denenberg
The Journal of Ben Uchida:Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp, California, 1942 by Barry Denenberg


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What it's about
Ben Uchida spent his twelfth and thirteenth years in a Japanese internment camp at desolate Mirror Lake, even though he was born in America, had never been to Japan, and could speak few Japanese words. He records his experiences and emotions in this fictional journal. At the camp, residents lived like prisoners, with barbed wire and armed guards everywhere. He writes about the sadness and frustrations of life in the camp, but also about some positive things, like playing on the camp baseball team. Historical notes and photographs are provided at the end. As with many books in this popular series, this title will help personalize this important event in American history.

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 5-8         DRA Level: 44 
Difficulty Level: age 9-12     Lexile Measure: 850L  

Awards and Rating
Average Amazon Rating:4 stars (32 reviews)






Weedflower
by Cynthia Kadohata
Weedflower


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What it's about
During WW2, Sumiko and her Japanese-American family are sent to an internment camp in the Arizona desert where they live in dusty military barracks. The camp is on an Indian reservation, and her budding friendship with a young Mohave boy depicts the joys and problems of an inter-racial friendship and fore- shadows of futures of these populations afterward. In a starred review, SLJ said the main character "is a sympathetic heroine, surrounded by well-crafted, fascinating people" and calls it"a compelling narrative that will resonate with a wide audience."

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 5-8      DRA Level: 44
Difficulty Level: Y.A.        Lexile Measure: 750L  

Awards and Rating
Women's Int'l League for Peace & Freedom Award
NCSS Notable Children's Book 2007
Average Amazon Rating: 4.5 stars (19 reviews)






Remembering Manzanar
Life in a Japanese Relocation Camp by Michael Cooper
Remembering Manzanar


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What it's about
Loaded with haunting photographs and quotes from former residents (which were published in their newspaper, the Manzanar Free Press), this non- fiction title describes and provides photographs of the Manzanar Internment Camp and the living conditions and daily lives of the Japanese Americans who were interned there. PW said "visuals and text resolutely portray a painful chapter in America's past" and SLJ recommends that this book is "especially suited to readers who already know a bit about the subject

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 5-8         DRA Level: n/a 
Difficulty Level: age 9-12     Lexile Measure: n/a

Awards and Rating
Nat'l Council for Social Studies Woodson Award
Average Amazon Rating:5 stars (1 review)






I Am An American
A True Story of Japanese Internment by Jerry Stanley
I am an American : A True Story of the Japanese Internment


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What it's about
The Japanese-American experience during WWII is illustrated in this sad tale of one of America's darkest times. Focusing on what happened to one high-school boy, the author relates Shi Nomura's experiences to the main events of the bombing, war panic, removals to camps, return to their devastated homes, and the official government apology. PW called the book "a haunting, at times heartrending chronicle" and SLJ said it had "in clear and fascinating prose...an eloquent account."

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 5-10         DRA Level:  n/a
Difficulty Level: age 9-12      Lexile Measure: 1180L

Awards and Rating
American Library Ass. Notable Children's Book 1995
Horn Book Magazine Fanfare Award 1995
Average Amazon Rating: 5 stars (4 reviews)






The Invisible Thread
by Yoshiko Uchida
Invisible Thread


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What it's about
Subtitle: The powerful memoir of a girl consigned to a concentration camp--by the US government. Yoshiko felt like a normal American girl living a normal American life, until Pearl Harbor. After that, her family and others were rounded up and sent to an intern- ment camp in the desert, along with tens of thousand of other Japanese-Americans who had no civil rights and no ability to protest the act. Uchida's treatment of this difficult period in US history is age-appropriate and handled with care. SLJ called it "an eye opener" and Booklist said it was "fascinating reading."

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 5-8         DRA Level: n/a
Difficulty Level: age 8-12     Lexile Measure: 1060L

Awards and Rating
ALA Best Book for Young Adults 1993
Average Amazon Rating:4 stars (17 reviews)






Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration
During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim
Dear Miss Breed


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What it's about
A children's librarian knew dozens of Japanese- Americans through the library, and when they were sent to relocation camps she started sending them letters and care packages. They wrote her back and the letters form the foundation for the book's narrative. Author Joanne Oppenheim the weaves in facts, quotes, and archival materials about Japanese Internment Camps across the west. In a starred review, Booklist points out that this "passionately written history" is "more resonant now than ever, when American ideals were compromised by fear and unfortunate racial assumptions."

Reading levels
Interest Level: Gr. 6-10     DRA Level:  n/a
Difficulty Level:  Y.A.        Lexile Measure:  1040L

Awards and Rating
Nat'l Council for Social Studies Woodson Award
Average Amazon Rating:5 stars (14 reviews)






Aleutian Sparrow
by Karen Hesse

NOTE: This book is not about Japanese internment camps but we are including it on this list because it is about the similiar internment of Aleutian native peoples in Alaska during WW2.
Aleutian Sparrow


* See cover options / buy book
What it's about
In 1942, after a Japanese attack on their Aleutian Island homes, the native peoples of the island were forcibly moved to deplorable relocation centers in Alaska's southwest, supposedly for their protection. Hesse describes this tragic event through the eyes of a teenaged native girl named Vera. The story is told in Hesse's trademark prose poem style (just as she did in Newbery Medal winner Out of the Dust, although not as successfully here, in our opinion) and includes so many similes that many teachers use this book not for teaching US history, but for teaching similes!

Reading levels
Interest Level:  Gr. 6+        DRA Level: n/a 
Difficulty Level: age 9-12    Lexile Measure: n/a  

Awards and Rating
Nat'l Council for Social Studies Notable Book 2004
Average Amazon Rating:4.5 stars (17 reviews)





More on the Japanese internment camps:

There are a few additional stories that we are in the process of reviewing to see if they should be added to this page. Thank you to users of this site for bringing these books to our attention!

(1)
Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Platt; illustrated by Shula Klinger
(2)
Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
(3)
Sylvia and Aki by Winifred Conkling
(4) Children of the Relocation Camps by Catherine Welch (an NCSS Woodson Honor Book for 2001)

Our review of these books will be added to this page soon. In the meantime, learn more here.




To see other books: GO FROM-- Japanese Internment Camps  --TO-- all American History book lists

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