Take What You Can Carry by Kevin C. Pyle
This graphic novel explores connections between generations and across races, in an innovative way. It is the story of two teenage boys. One is a Japanese American who is sent to the internment camps during World War II. His part of the story shows the displacement of his family, the loss of their rights, and the realities of the camps. In alternating chapters, we also get the modern story of a teenage boy who moves to a new community and gets in with the wrong group of boys. Soon he is robbing stores and eventually ends up in real trouble. The man whose store he robs was the Japanese teen, who also resorted to stealing in the camps.
At first, readers are not sure how the two stories will ever come together into one, or if they ever will. They seem so remote and separate from one another. Then when they do, there is a great satisfaction is realizing why the modern boy is given a chance to remedy what he has done. It is a story that deals with two very personal stories, but that also has a more universal message about displacement, theft and redemption. Both of the teen boys find ways to make things right in their lives, to accept their conditions, to rise above.
Pyle’s two stories are shown in different color palettes as you can see from the cover. The sepia tones work well for the historical story, also emphasizing the wasteland of the internment camps. The blues of the modern story give it a cool feeling that suits a story where a boy is not making the right choices and where his world is devoid of warmth.
This intriguing graphic novel is a compelling read that will show young readers not only about history but also about themselves and their own choices. Appropriate for ages 12-14.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt.