A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina

Published: 1st February 2019Goodreads badge
Kar-Ben Publishing
Illustrator: Merrilee Liddiard
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

It’s 1942. Sam’s class is knitting socks for soldiers and Sam is a terrible knitter. Keiko is a good knitter, but some kids at school don’t want anything to do with her because the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and her family is Japanese American. When Keiko’s family is forced to move to a camp for Japanese Americans, can Sam find a way to demonstrate his friendship? 

This is a good book with an important message but it’s also one that is incredibly text heavy which may be a deterrent for younger readers. Each page has around a paragraph of story on it, accompanied by a large illustration. The text included dialogue and narrative but with this set up across all 30+ pages it is a long read.

While it may be long, the story isn’t overly complicated and the message and history Malaspina is trying to convey is important. The focus is through Sam and we see his perspective and understanding of the world around him. As the story goes on you can see Sam’s opinions being shaped by what he hears around him but you also see him learn and realise that those opinions might not be right.

The bigger message of the camps is addressed but the focus is on how a child may view the world during this time so we only see Sam’s experiences during this time and his interactions with others. Malaspina isn’t giving a complete breakdown of the war, instead she is looking at it from an individual perspective and humanising what happened. This works better in my opinion because as Sam is the focus of the story we see events play out around him and seeing Sam’s growing understanding of what is happening demonstrates how opinions can be changed and how the loudest voice isn’t always the right one.

The full page illustrations help visual what is happening on the page, something that helps given it is such a text heavy book. The colours help reflect the era the story is set, a lot of browns and tans as was seen during the war. The few colours we see stand out on the sepia type illustrations varying between full page pictures and framed images that reflect old photographs which I thought was a clever choice by Liddiard.

The ending is left open but there is also a lot of historical information at the end of the book to learn about the real camp and the real ways Americans treated their fellow citizens. It was an interesting book and maybe having such a detailed story works in its favour because you get to see a lot more than if it had been condensed down. There is definitely a sense of injustice throughout and having a child like Sam have to realise his own mistakes is a great lesson for kids to see.

You can purchase A Scarf for Keiko via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Fishpond

 Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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