A Scarf for Keiko

Ann Malaspina

Illus­trat­ed by Mer­rilee Liddiard

  • Review
By – January 14, 2019

In this sto­ry set in 1942, a young Jew­ish boy, Sam, watch­es pas­sive­ly while Keiko, a Japan­ese Amer­i­can friend from school is first shunned and lat­er sent off with her fam­i­ly to an intern­ment camp some­where in the desert.” Sam, whose dis­com­fort feels real enough to make the read­er squirm, knows that Keiko and her fam­i­ly are not spies but has trou­ble artic­u­lat­ing what he knows to be true — espe­cial­ly when his friends assure him that talk­ing to Keiko means being dis­loy­al to his broth­er fight­ing over­seas. Sam knows his friends are wrong, yet pas­sive­ly fol­lows their lead.

Sam’s par­ents invite Keiko’s fam­i­ly to din­ner but they are unable to attend. They’ve been noti­fied that they must pack what­ev­er belong­ings they can; they are being moved to an intern­ment camp imme­di­ate­ly. Sam’s fam­i­ly dis­cuss­es this around the Shab­bat table, a table gen­er­al­ly dec­o­rat­ed with flow­ers but emp­ty on this night since the florist shop, run by Keiko’s father, has been destroyed.

With the wis­dom of his par­ents’ Shab­bat dis­cus­sion still echo­ing in Sam’s ears, he sends a let­ter to Keiko along with a a scarf he hasknit for her, for warmth dur­ing the cold desert nights. He adds a wish for her safe return. He sees that Keiko has left him some­thing as well, a pair of warm socks that she knit for his broth­er, to keep him warm while he is away fight­ing for their coun­try. The socks are accom­pa­nied by a note with a wish for Sam’s broth­er’s safe return home.

The sim­ple illus­tra­tions echo the book’s straight­for­ward themes: loy­al­ty, car­ing and non-dis­crim­i­na­tion. An author’s note at the end pro­vides his­tor­i­cal back­ground and is accom­pa­nied by pho­tos from the era. This book is a per­fect jump­ing-off point for dis­cus­sion at home or in school.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions