Book Review: Fred Korematsu Speaks Up, by Laura Atkins & Stan Yogi, illus. by Yutaka Houlette

“If you have the feeling that something is wrong, don’t be afraid to speak up.”
Fred Korematsu

fk-speaks-up-coverIt’s traumatizing to be arrested and thrown in jail. Maybe even more so when it’s simply because of your skin color, religious affiliation, or gender identity. The memories remain painful. It takes courage to speak up.

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up, written by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi, and illustrated by Yutaka Houlette, tells the story of the unsung American hero who stood up to the government when an executive order was issued to send all Japanese Americans above fourteen to internment camps. He fought not just for his sake, but for civil liberties and for the Constitution of the United States, and the government later thanked him for it.

Fred Koretmatsu Speaks Up isn’t a typical history or biography book. Chapter after chapter, the book not just gives facts, but also turns the table on the reader, asking questions such as, “Why do you think discrimination happens?”

What I liked about this book and why I recommend it:

1) Fred Korematsu Speaks Up has a surprising universal appeal. Indeed, Mr. Korematsu’s experience is not just told in relatable ways through his daily activities–at home, in school, looking for a job, but it also relates to current events, and it relates to communities beyond the Asian American ones.
2)  His story can help children and adults alike, of any background, understand what it is like to grow up being an immigrant or a child of immigrants in the USA. We’re given a glimpse into his family dynamic, as well as into the reality that an immigrant’s identity isn’t as clear cut as stereotypes make it be. To the reader who is an immigrant, this is an empowering story. To the one who is not, this is the bridge to help him understand what it took for his neighbor, classmate or friend to enjoy the same freedom today.
3) In the light of what is going on in the world, this book introduces the young reader to the legal and political vocabulary, and is useful in presenting and understanding historical American values, the government role, and activism (ACLU has a central role).
4) The book’s interactive structure as a teaching tool: short chapters telling a slice of Mr. Korematsu’s story, followed by pages filled with historical facts and documents, a glossary, and a timeline…
5) The clean, sobering and soothing illustrations by Yutaka Houlette.

January 30 is Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, and also his birthday. Several news outlets (NPR, CNN, The Smithsonian Mag, just to quote a few) celebrated him via their articles. Google contribute with a unique doodle.


I humbly urge every librarian, teacher, and parent to read it, and to do so with a child. If you’re reading this review, please pick up the book and spread the word about it.

fred-k-portraitFavorite quote:
Am I an American or not?
he wonders.”



Further steps to take:
o You can purchase the book at the EastWind Books.
o Help Fred Korematsu Speaks Up‘s book drive, and nominate or give the book to a library.
o Connect with the Fred Korematsu Institute to support his legacy, and spread the knowledge about civil liberties and the Constitution. Educators receive a free teaching kit, shipped worldwide, free of charge.
o Join the book’s group on Facebook, to discover school or library resources, discuss the book or ask questions to Laura Atkins, one of the book’s creators. You will also have access to the dates of upcoming book events or school visits.
o If you tweet about the book or otherwise discuss it online, it would help if you use the hashtag #FightingForJustice.

Recommended age range: 8-14.
Publisher: HeyDay Books
Release date: January 30, 2017.

Updated on January 31, 2107, to correct spelling error on “Korematsu.”

Picture Book Anniversary & Review: i see peace, by Maya Gonzalez

what-is-peace-2Favorite quote: “there can still be peace between us.”

There are a few books out there that will never get old, that are timeless. i see peace is one of them, especially when we consider the year that we’ve just had: all the shootings, the (suicide) bombings, the racial and political and economical tensions all over the world and closer to us.  I’ve lost track of the number of times I read this book since I’ve owned it. Every time I paused and pondered on a different page, on a different quote. I looked within and I looked around. Through its words I chased hope when it had become shy. I crossed the bridge of generations and of mutual understanding, one page at a time. The book speaks every language, and to every generation. It will make you smile when all is alright, and remind you of what matters. It is likely to make you feel peaceful when there is turmoil.

i see peace suits any occasion. It makes for a great holiday gift and beyond that, its reading can be appreciated all year long. It also strikes me as the type of message our world needs right now. I hope you will give it a chance.

Additional information:

i see peace book cover, courtesy of Maya Gonzalez.
i see peace book cover, courtesy of Maya Gonzalez.

More can be written about the concise writing style and the font use. There is matter to reflect regarding the deliberate lack of capital letters in the beginning of every sentence. The illustrations are minimal and leave room to breathe without being overwhelming, while adding to the depth of the reading experience. I enjoyed how, looking at them, they add to the multidimensionality of the theme of peace: peace with one self, peace with each other, peace with the earth and our surroundings. Yet for the purpose of this review, I chose to focus solely on the message of the book. I leave the additional literary analysis to the discretion of the reader.

i see peace was released on December 16, 2013, and is one of the excellently self-published books that I would recommend. It was free for upload on Amazon for short period of time late in 2014, which is how it first got to my attention and how I obtained it. I mentioned in my Amazon’s review that I “Loved the historical reference at the end, which deepens the roots of the peace planted within during the reading of this song to our soul.” (sp)

A curriculum and activity guide for the book, titled Creating a Culture of Peace in the Classroom and Beyond, are available on the author’s website.

i see peace is also available in Spanish under the title yo veo la paz.

Maya-Christina GonzalezAbout the author:
Maya Gonzalez is an award winning artist and innovative author, an activist and an educator based in the Bay Area, in Northern California. Year long she teaches, among other topics, workshops on writing and illustrating children’s books through her school, the School of the Free Mind. She is the founder of Reflection Press. She has been both traditionally published and self-published.

For more information about Maya and to get in touch with her, please visit:
o her website
o School of the Free Mind
o Reflection Press
o her Facebook Page
o Twitter

For the classroom:
o Educational Resources and Programs

This is my last post for 2015. I wish you all a warm and safe holiday season.