This reverent nonfiction work for older middle-grade readers depicts the U.S.'s harrowing history of Japanese American internment during World War II through the lenses of three professional photographers. The accompanying narration by National Book Award finalist Elizabeth Partridge (Boots on the Ground) and illustrations by Lauren Tamaki (You Are Mighty) fluidly merge the artists' visual perspectives into a multi-dimensional experience of the xenophobic response to Pearl Harbor's bombing.
Each of Partridge's three photographers--Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake and Ansel Adams--approached their work recording the Manzanar incarceration camp differently. The U.S. government imprisoned Japanese-born photographer Miyatake in Manzanar; the same government later hired Lange to provide photographic evidence that it was acting humanely toward the Japanese Americans. The final member of the book's trio, Adams, entered Manzanar in 1943 at the behest of the camp's director with the goal to "convince other Americans how trustworthy and patriotic [the prisoners] were."
The photographs in each section are accompanied by Tamaki's original art, which works to incorporate and visually extend the view readers have of Manzanar. Also stretching the reader's experience is a rich collection of backmatter that includes biographies of the photographers, credits for their photographs and information about civil liberties. Each meticulously composed section of the book evokes strong feelings through the combination of imagery and history. Seen and Unseen portrays this assault on Japanese Americans with a powerful accuracy that all readers will benefit from experiencing. --Jen Forbus, freelancer