In “The Last Cherry Blossom,” Kathleen Burkinshaw writes about an incident that has largely been ignored in middle grade literature. While there are many books about the effect of the internment camps that Japanese Americans were forced into, often losing all their belongings and savings, little has been written about the effects of the atomic bomb on the people in Hiroshima.
Yuriko tells her story in first person narrative. She lives with her father, her aunt and her young cousin. Her father is a wealthy publisher; her mother is dead. The reader becomes slowly involved in Yuriko’s life as she shares details about her life including her doubts about her father’s new lady friend. When Yuriko learns something devastating about her family, readers will feel touched by her plight.
Sometimes, readers might feel that the dialogue is stilted, but that may be because in the Japanese culture people are very concerned about being polite. The overly polite language serves to bring that cultural difference to light.
Burkinshaw has researched what was happening in Hiroshima and Japan in the months leading up to the dropping of the bomb. Each chapter begins with a quote from a war poster or from a Japanese radio station. Readers of all ages will find it fascinating (and horrifying) that the Japanese culture demanded that women and children commit suicide to avoid capture by the Americans. According to the story, in Okinawa, over two hundred women and children did this.
Of course, the atom bomb and its horrifying effects on the people of Hiroshima will shock the readers. This book would be a perfect companion to the many other middle grade books about WWII, especially because this one so clearly and heartbreakingly describes the horrendous effects of the bomb and the war in Japan.
Yuriko’s thoughts and emotions clearly share what many children might have experienced during this tragic time in history.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Sky Pony Press for review purposes.