Pyle, Kevin C. Take What You Can Carry. Macmillan/ Henry Holt 176 $12.99 978-0-8050-8286-9 ms/hs Series: 101 (Capstone) VG Graphic Novel
Take What You Can Carry is a graphic novel that explores connections between generations and across races. In 1941 Berkeley, the Himitsu family is forced to leave their home for a Japanese-American internment camp, taking only what they can carry. The Himitsu's teenaged son must deal with displacement, the loss of rights, and camp life, where he learns to steal. In 1977 suburban Chicago, Kyle is the new kid in the neighborhood. Displaced and bored, Kyle runs wild. Egged on by his new "friends," Kyle learns to take what he can carry (i.e., shoplift) from the local mom-and-pop store.
Kyle and Himatsu's lives intersect. Kyle and his friends steal from Himatsu's store and are caught. Kyle works for Himatsu to pay off his debt, and both learn compassion and grow from the experience.
The didactic story, from cover art through the illustrations, looks drab and uninviting. One effective device is the use of wordlessness to render the "internment" section of the story more powerful. Just as the government robbed the interred Japanese-Americans of their rights, the author underscores this loss by robbing the characters of their voices. The historical notes and bibliography at the end provide additional insight into this era of American history.
Due to the nearly wordless script, the graphic novel can be read quickly. This may appeal to high-low readers, or serve as a springboard to more in-depth study. --Hilary Welliver