Fifty years later it is still hard to tell children the story of the US bombing of Hiroshima. This restrained and heartfelt picture book can help adults begin that task. A beautiful, arresting cover provides a key to the content: In the foreground a small boy scoots along on the back of red tricycle; he travels through the heavens and into a flock of doves; in the background a chillingly familiar mushroom cloud rises from the city. Kodama, in a text suffused with sadness and painful memory, relates the true story of Nobuo Tetsutani's son, three-year-old Shin, who, along with two sisters and his best friend, died on August 6, 1945. Told in the first-person voice of a grieving father, the story tells how the boy wanted a tricycle, scarce during the war, and was still gripping its handle when he was dug from the rubble of the blast. Forty years after that, Shin's father and mother find among the white bones of their children's graves the tricycle, which they had forgotten completely. A brief author's note appears with photographs of the real Shin and the charred, half-melted tricycle now on display at the Hiroshima Peace Museum. The text and, notably, the expertly rendered, polished paintings are far from sentimental. Readers are given a vivid impression of the blast, light, heat, fire, ash, and darkness. Yes, this is strong stuff, impossibly sad, and no one will get through a reading of it unmoved. The text is unflinching: ""Wars are always brutal. No matter who starts one, innocent people die--even children like Shin.