A book you should read: WRITE TO ME

Write to MeI’ve always been fond of librarians. I’ve never met one I didn’t like — although statistically — I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere.

Why do I love librarians?

Librarians love knowledge. They can find anything you need — often more accurately and quickly than Google — and they can help you sift through sources to find the most trustworthy one. They consider uncommon requests a challenge and jump in the fray to find the answer.

Librarians love books. Based on what you’ve already liked, they can recommend something else for you to try. And if you’ve never liked books, they can probably find something you’ll enjoy anyway.

Librarians also love people. They have to. They never know who will walk in the door and what they’ll need.

So I was thrilled to see Cynthia Grady and Amiko Hirao’s picture book, WRITE TO ME (Charlesbridge, 2018), that’s an ode to a real-life librarian — Clara Breed.

Clara was a librarian at the San Diego Public Library in the 1940s. Many of her patrons, whom she adored (see my comments about people skills above) were Japanese-Americans. So when the U.S. government began rounding up Americans of Japanese descent and moving them to internment camps even though they had broken no laws and committed no crimes, Clara was distraught.

She couldn’t change what the government was doing, but she wanted to stay in touch with her friends and let them know she cared.. So Clara gave out stamped postcards so her patrons could tell her where they ended up. Clara stayed in touch with her patrons during the war even as they were moved from one camp to another. She sent postcards and books and art supplies and even traveled to visit some of the children at the camp they were confined to.

In a time of uncertainty and fear, Clara provided kindness and love, and her library patrons never forgot her efforts.

The book is awesome because it uses actual postcards between the children and Clara to tell the story and has photos of the children and Clara before the war and at a reunion many years after. And it’s full of librarian-worthy timelines and sources and data. It’s a great classroom read about a period of history that many people either never learn about or have forgotten. But the faces of the children in the book and the stories of families swept away from their homes and businesses and lives are not easy to forget.

It’s also a great story because it reminds readers of the difference one regular person can make. Clara Breed was not powerful or wealthy, but she used what she had — love for her library patrons and love for books — to do what she could to make a small difference that had a very big impact on her neighbors.

I hope you’ll check this out — and perhaps meet your local librarian.

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  1. This sounds like a wonderful book! I’m on the hunt for it!

  2. Clara Breed sounds like an amazing lady. I’m glad Cynthia Grady and Amiko Hiram have enlightened us with her story.

  3. Sorry, I typed in Hirao, but auto correct had a mind of its own.

  4. Just put a hold on it at my library. Thanks, Pat!

  5. Sounds like a must read!

  6. Thank you Pat. I look forward to reading this book!

  7. I hope our San Diego libraries have this in stock! Going to check it out now and request the purchase if not. Thanks for sharing this story.

  8. What a beautiful story! Thank you Pat. I’m excited to read this!

  9. WRITE TO ME: LETTERS FROM JAPANESE AMERICAN CHILDREN TO THE LIBRARIAN LEFT BEHIND is an amazing story that touched my heart. Clara Breed is a woman who must be remembered for her kind heart and her love of literacy during WWII. It’s so difficult to understand why Japanese Americans were singled out, treated with hatred and ordered to “relocation camps”.

    Suzy Leopold

  10. Thanks for sharing – I always love seeing the real pieces of history!

  11. Sounds terrific.

  12. Thank goodness for Clara and others were kind during dark times. We need role models to show us the way to treat fellow human beings.

  13. I would like to read this story, but I’m sorry that we (still) live in a world where these things can happen.

  14. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, Pat. I look forward to reading about Clara.

  15. Thank you so very much for sharing this book. I can’t wait to read it!

  16. This sounds like the perfect library book! I work in a library and this review had me teary eyed. Can’t wait to read it! 🙂

  17. What an amazing woman. I can’t wait to read this book. Thanks for sharing.

  18. What a wonderful tribute to this caring librarian. (I haven’t met a clunker yet, either!)
    Neat book, Pat. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  19. This is a wonderful story that needs to be told. And it would make a perfect gift for an elementary school librarian.

  20. I, too, loved this book. Thanks with sharing it with your broad following.

  21. Wow! What a story! Thank you for sharing.

  22. This sounds amazing. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

  23. Thank you for highlighting this story. I’ll be checking it out soon!

  24. This sounds lovely! I can’t wait to read it. Perfect post for National Library Week, Pat.

  25. Wow! This sounds like a fantastic book! Inspirational! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  26. This book looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing about it!

  27. I’m really appreciating the spotlight on all these stories about history/non-fiction. This looks like another fantastic story and tool for teaching our children. The tribute to Librarians is the icing on the cake! Thanks, Pat!

  28. I’m adding this one to my to-read list, Pat. I loved DEAR MISS BREED: true stories of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II and a librarian who made a difference / by Joanne Oppenheim, Scholastic, 2006. That one, however is aimed at upper elementary and middle school readers so a book that shares this compassionate and proactive librarian’s story with younger readers is perfect.

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