Have you ever had a friend who was so special to you, so much a part of your daily existence, that you’d not only write to her constantly while she was away but keep a scrapbook of what goes on at home while she was gone?
Now imagine that you’re 14 years old, it’s 1942, you live on Bainbridge Island, your best friend is Japanese-American and is being sent (along with her family and many other families from your community) to Camp Harmony Assembly Center in Puyallup. That’s where Best Friends Forever: a World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Patt begins.
Dottie Promised to write, and I promised to write back. I also promised myself one more thing: I’d keep a record of everything that goes on while Dottie’s away and share it with her when she returns. I hope, for our sake, this turns out to be a very short scrapbook.
From the endpapers to the photos and letters, I really felt like I was thumbing through a scrapbook someone’s grandmother could have put together decades ago. Movie ticket stubs, pressed flowers (both real and origami), and certificates of achievement are carefully preserved by Louise for Dottie to enjoy when she comes home.
Written for ages 10 and up, Best Friends Forever weaves together the stories of two best friends, Louise and Dottie, who have been separated by circumstances beyond their control. Told in alternating diary entries and letters from Dottie, our heroines face trials in adversity, forgiveness and hope that test their very conception of what it means to be an American.
Oh Lou Lou, why was I born with this Japanese face? No one can see my American heart.
For those who are interested in separating fact from fiction, there’s a detailed author’s note at the end of the story, as well as a bibliography for further reading. Even if you think you know your history, the story is so engrossing you may find yourself, like me, trying to determine which places and names were real and which were just products of the author’s imagination.
If you’ve wanted to read more about American internment camps but want something a little different than Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet you should give this one a try. The story of Dottie and Louise is a great read for younger audiences, as well as those who are just young at heart.