THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM by Kathleen Burkinshaw


Age Range: 11 - 13
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Japanese native Yuriko Ishikawa lives in Hiroshima with Papa, Aunt Kimiko, and annoying cousin Genji during the turmoil of World War II in Burkinshaw’s historical novel.

War seeps its way into every aspect of Yuriko’s life. Constant air-raid sirens and drills interrupt her daydreams, and the drone of “B-sans” (American B-29s) flying overhead fills her ears. She’s clumsy with exercises using bamboo spears as weapons, and when she and her best friend, Machiko, play jazz on the record player, they must do it in secret because all things American are banned. At home, a double wedding is planned, and new family members—Papa’s second wife, Sumiyo-san, and Aunt Kimiko’s second husband, Akira-san—move in. Will she ever have time alone with Papa again? Despite the necessity of participating in the war effort, Yuriko and her family do their best with normal activities, such as celebrating Oshagatsu (New Year’s) and the Cherry Blossom Festival. When a shocking family secret is revealed, Yuriko is shattered, but nothing can prepare her or her community for the unthinkable devastation about to hit their city. Chapter epigraphs of radio-show transcripts, newspaper headlines, and propaganda posters set the chilling tone. Told with reverence and authenticity, Yuriko’s journey is inspired by the author’s mother’s real-life experiences growing up in Hiroshima and surviving that tragic day on Aug. 6, 1945.

Tragedy and hope collide in this promising middle-grade debut. (afterword, bibliography, glossary, statistics about Hiroshima) (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63450-693-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2016


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