Take What You Can Carry

Take What You Can CarryTake What You Can Carry
By: Kevin C. Pyle
Publisher: Henry Holt
Format: Softcover, 6 x 9, 128 pages, Full Color, $12.99
ISBN: 978-0-80508-286-9

This graphic novel is powerful. While I read it, I felt it asking me for a favor: Please write this review as more than just an educator. Write it as a human being.

Kevin C. Pyle's Take What You Can Carry is rich with historical insight and opportunity. I hesitate to say who should read it because everyone should read it.    

Separated by time, two parallel stories take place. First, the reader meets a young Japanese boy living in the United States. Despite a democratic, typical American childhood this boy is fenced in and guarded following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Second, and nearly four decades later, the reader meets another young boy. In this case, the young boy is being interrogated by a police officer. Seemingly different the boys share some powerful similarities.  

In a typical review I might discuss some of these similarities. To do so in this review, though, would be to do this graphic novel a disservice. The similarities are for readers to discover and find.  

So there I leave it. Find what you can, take what you can carry, and literally pass this graphic novel on to someone else.   

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Separated by time, two young men must learn to copy with some of life's most critical coming of age issues. And even though their situations and lives seem an unlikely pairing, there are many more similarities than the reader may at first assume.       

Setting: Suburb of Chicago, IL (1970s), Berkeley, CA, San Bruno, CA (1940s)

Major Characters: Ken, Kyle

Themes: Time and Place, Generations, Coming of Age, Maturity, Old and Young

Traditional Literature Pairing Suggestions: The Bluest Eye or Beloved by Toni Morrison, Maus I and/or Maus II by Art Spiegelman, Persepolis I and/or Persepolis II by Marjane Satrapi, Rabbit series by John Updike, Night by Elie Wiesel, Surviving Auschwitz and/or The Reawakening by Primo Levi, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle and High School Readers

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*
- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE

1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment.  Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.  

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate and appreciate texts.

4. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
Suggested Reading Lesson Plan for Middle and High School Readers:

Directions: Ask students to look at the three triangle-shaped graphic organizers below. Each triangle has its own directions.

Triangle 1: Ken
As you read Take What You Can Carry keep a list of the 5 Ws as they pertain to Ken's story: who, what, where, when, and why.

Triangle 2: Kyle
As you read Take What You Can Carry keep a list of the 5 Ws as they pertain to Kyle's story: who, what, where, when, and why.

Triangle 3: Take What You Can Carry
Take a few minutes to reread and reflect on triangles 1 and 2.  After you do so, consider the 5 Ws in terms of the entire story. Fill out the below, third triangle with both boys' stories in mind, making a plus symbol (+) next to every significant similarity and a negative symbol (-) next to every significant difference.

Finally, and as a class, discuss the significance of each triangle. In regards to the 3rd and final triangle, which details of the 5 Ws did you give a + symbol and which did you give a – symbol? Why?

Keep notes on your discussion in the space below.

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.