April 27, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards Honor Interned Japanese Americans

Winifred Conkling. Photo by Rocco Staino.

Two books with historical ties to the Japanese American internment during World War II won the 59th Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, recognizing books promoting peace, social justice, world community, and equality of the sexes and races. The winners gathered at the Jane Addams Peace Association’s headquarters in New York City for the October 19 ceremony.

Winifred Conkling’s novel Sylvia & Aki (Random, 2011) received the award for an older children’s book. The novel is based on the true experiences of two young girls whose lives intersected in Southern California: Aki Munemitsu, whose Japanese American family had to abandon their farm when interned by the United States government during World War II, and Sylvia Mendez, whose family took over the farm. Sylvia was later denied admittance into the local public school because she was Mexican. That led to the court case Mendez v. Westminster School District, which ultimately opened education to all races in California schools.

Dr. Gordon Sato. Photo by Rocco Staino.

The work of Dr. Gordon Sato, who was detained in a Japanese internment camp as a child, was the basis of the winning title for younger children, The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families (Lee & Low, 2011) by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. Alternating between verse and prose, the book describes how Dr. Sato’s mangrove tree-planting project transformed an impoverished Hargigo, a village in the tiny African country of Eritrea, into a self-sufficient community.  The 84-year-old Sato was honored during the ceremony for his efforts to bring a low-cost, low-impact solution to world hunger.

Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. Photo by Rocco Staino.

Bettye Stroud, a retired school librarian, was also recognized for Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend (Candlewick, 2011), co-written with Calvin Alexander Ramsey, and named an honor book in the younger children category.  It tells the story of the mule who pulled the farm wagon bearing the casket of Martin Luther King.

Other honor titles include:

Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about Peace (Macmillan, 2011) written and illustrated by Anna Grossnickle Hines

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (HarperCollins, 2011) written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Inside Out & Back Again (HarperCollins, 2011) by Thanhha Lai

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Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.