Thursday, January 11, 2018


I love being a CYBILS judge, because I always learn new things. This year, for example, I learned about Toyasoburo (Fred) Korematsu, an American hero who I am ashamed to admit had never even heard of. The book, FRED KOREMATSU SPEAKS UP made it to the CYBILS nonfiction finalists. I hope it wins!

Toyasoburo Korematsu, born in 1919, was the third son of Japanese immigrants, who had moved to the United States in 1905. His first grade teacher could not get her tongue around his first name, and so Toyasoburo became Fred. When Korematsu was 23, all persons of Japanese heritage were ordered into internment camps. Fred refused to go, and was arrested and thrown into jail. While he was imprisoned, Korematsu was visited by the ACLU, who asked him to allow his case to become the test case to challenge the constitutionality of the government’s imprisonment of Japanese Americans. The case ultimately went all the way to the Supreme Court. Korematsu lost, but forty years later, new evidence was uncovered and Korematsu was pardoned. 

In addition to a compelling story of a horrific injustice, an interesting aspect of this nominee is the format. The book alternates between sections presented almost as a novel in verse, followed by other sections that read like a more traditional nonfiction text with photographs, propaganda cartoons, and timelines. A fascinating presentation of a true American hero. 

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