Japanese-American Incarceration During World War II: Books for Kids and Young Adults

These books for kids and teens tell the stories of Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps during World War II. They include picture books, novels, autobiographies, non-fiction collections, and graphic novels; many are set before and during the war, while others are more contemporary and look back at the internment camps and their painful legacy. These books provide an excellent entry into discussions about this period of U.S. history, civil rights, and social justice. For teachers interested in continuing discussion of the 1944 Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United Sates, see this article from The Washington Post.

Behind Barbed Wires: Japanese-American Internment Newspapers

Behind the barbed wire of assembly centers and relocation centers around the country during World War II, interned Japanese-Americans produced newspapers to chronicle the stories and experiences of their community in a time of crisis. Students can see this newspapers online in this Library of Congress collection.

Lesson Plans

A Place to Belong

A young Japanese American girl stands with suitcases
Illustrated by: Julia Kuo
Age Level: 9-12, Middle Grade

After World War II has ended, twelve-year-old Hanako feels lost.  America, the only home she's ever known, imprisoned then rejected her and her family, along with thousands of other innocent Americans, because of their Japanese heritage. Japan, the country they've been forced to move to, where they were supposed to start new and better lives, is in shambles because of America's bombs. And Hanako's grandparents live in a small village just outside the ravaged city.

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow

This book, based on experiences of the author's mother and grandparents, tells the story of a Japanese American family relocated to an internment camp in Utah. Even in the harsh landscape of the desert, a young girl is able to find beauty in unlikely places, and to re-establish her identity through art, by drawing what she remembers of her life before coming to the camp. Historical notes included. Bilingual English and Japanese.

Baseball Saved Us

During World War II, Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps. Isolated and bored, baseball became a life and soul-saving pastime which successfully brought very different people together. Darkly hued illustrations evoke the difficulty of the time, based on the author's family story. Spanish version available.

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

In the early 1940's, Clara Breed was the children's librarian at the San Diego Public Library. But she was also friend to dozens of Japanese American children and teens when war broke out in December of 1941. The story of what happened to these American citizens is movingly told through letters that her young friends wrote to Miss Breed during their internment. This remarkable librarian and humanitarian served as a lifeline to these imprisoned young people, and was brave enough to speak out against a shameful chapter in American history.

Farewell to Manzanar

Photo of young Japanese American girl and internment camp

This is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention as seen through the eyes of Jeannie, the youngest daughter of the Wakatsuki family. The family was detained for four years at the Manzanar Internment Camp during World War II.

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up

Illustrated by: Yutaka Houlette
Age Level: Middle Grade

From School Library Journal: "A compelling blend of free verse, expository text, and artwork illuminates the life and times of Japanese American activist Fred Korematsu. Growing up in Oakland, the child of Japanese immigrants, Korematsu was a typical American kid, joining the Boy Scouts and dancing to big band music.

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War

Age Level: Middle Grade

With a white mother and a Japanese father, Koji Miyamoto quickly realizes that his home in San Francisco is no longer a welcoming one after Pearl Harbor is attacked. And once he's sent to an internment camp, he learns that being half white at the camp is just as difficult as being half Japanese on the streets of an American city during WWII.

Home of the Brave

By: Allen Say
Age Level: Middle Grade

A contemporary man traveling in a kayak finds himself in an earlier time in an internment camp filled with Japanese American children. Photorealistic illustrations distinguish this sophisticated allegorical story and are sure to generate discussion.

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II

Sandler expertly crafts a narrative that manages to explain the horror and incomprehensibility of locking up American citizens in prison camps simply because of their ethnic ancestry. Japanese American relocation has long been expurgated from school history texts about World War II, and here this delicate topic is handled with sensitivity and insight, providing an in-depth look at the full story, from anti-Japanese sentiments during the first wave of immigration through more current issues such as redress.

Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration

Photo of watchtower, barbed wire, and camera
Illustrated by: Lauren Tamaki
Age Level: Middle Grade

Three months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Roosevelt ordered the incarceration of all Japanese and Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the United States.  Three photographers set out to document life at Manzanar, an incarceration camp in the California desert: Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams. In Seen and Unseen, Elizabeth Partridge and Lauren Ta

So Far from the Bamboo Grove

Illustration of family fleeing

In the final days of World War II, Koreans were determined to take back control of their country from the Japanese and end the suffering caused by the Japanese occupation. As an eleven-year-old girl living with her Japanese family in northern Korea, Yoko is suddenly fleeing for her life with her mother and older sister, Ko, trying to escape to Japan, a country Yoko hardly knows. Their journey is terrifying — and remarkable.

So Far from the Sea

Illustrated by: Chris K. Soentpiet
Age Level: Middle Grade
Language: English

All the more moving in its restraint, this picture-book account of a fictional family reveals, with gentle dignity, a sad chapter in American history. Laura Iwasaki and her Japanese-American family will soon move from California to Boston, so they are making one last visit to Laura's grandfather's grave, which lies near the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so far from the sea he loved. Before World War II, he was a fisherman. Then, along with Laura's father, her grandmother, and 10,000 other Japanese Americans, he was sent to the Manzanar War Relocation Center.

Sylvia & Aki

Sylvia & Aki

Product Description: Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle; all she wanted was to enroll in school. Aki Munemitsu never expected to be relocated to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert; all she wanted was to stay on her family farm and finish the school year. The two girls certainly never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected in Southern California during a time when their country changed forever. Based on a true story.

The Bracelet

Emi is filled with sadness as she prepares to leave her home for the internment camp where she and her fellow Japanese-Americans will be forced to live. Just before she leaves, her best friend Laurie brings her a special bracelet so that Emi will not forget her. When Emi loses the bracelet though in the crowds, she feels that has lost so much more and even more alone — until she realizes that maybe she doesn't need the bracelet to remember Laurie after all.

They Called Us Enemy

Drawing of a boy looking at reader while in line to enter a "relocation center.".
Illustrated by: Harmony Becker
Age Level: Middle Grade
Language: Spanish

George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's -- and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.


Sumiko and her family are shipped to a Japanese internment camp in one of the hottest places in California after the events of Pearl Harbor. She was raised in California on a flower farm and now instead of flowers, she must endure dust storms regularly. In her old life she was accustomed to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Now they find themselves on an Indian reservation and are as unwelcome there as anywhere. She finally finds a friend in one Mohave boy. There they do their best to rebuild their lives and create a community.