Cover Image

Take What You Can Carry by C. K. Pyle

Pyle, C. Kevin.  Take What You Can Carry. New York. Henry Holt and Company LLC, 2012. Print.

​This graphic novel intertwines two different stories, set four generations apart. The two stories are told in alternating perspectives of the two main characters, Ken and Kyle. To emphasize and distinguish between the two different stories, Pyle uses two diverse colors to set them apart.  Ken’s story, in sepia tones, is set in 1941 when his family is sent to a Japanese Internment camp.  Kyle’s story, in blue watercolor, takes place in 1978 in Chicago when he moves to a new neighborhood, is making new friends and rebelling against his father.

At the beginning it seems as though the two stories may never connect.  Ken’s family has been uprooted from their home, his father is placed in jail, and he and his family are taken to an internment camp where they are treated like animals.  Ken is faced with many decisions and choices about how to deal with his new life.  Similarly, Kyle’s new friends begin stealing and they all become more reckless.  Although Ken and Kyle’s worlds are vastly different, they are both faced with strikingly similar choices.  Both teenagers are able to rise above, with the help of a wise adult, and take responsibility for their actions, and discover compassion and loyalty despite the hardships faced.  Ken’s story has no narration or text, only pictures.  This requires the reader to rely on the images to infer and make meaning from them.  As a result, Ken’s story can be difficult to understand and necessitates an experienced visual reader with an ability to draw conclusions from images, and a reader interested enough to reread sections.   Historical notes are provided at the end of the story to fill in the gaps and provide further context for the reader.

Despite the shortcomings of having to put the pieces together, it does challenge the reader to think critically about this time in history and make connections to current day society.  A thought provoking read, with important messages for all ages about forgiveness and finding happiness even in the most destitute of situations.  Recommended for school library collections.

​Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Tamzen Kulyk

Tamzen Kulyk is a teacher-librarian at two elementary schools in the Saskatoon Public School Division in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.