The text is unflinching: "Wars are always brutal. No matter who starts one, innocent people die even children like Shin."

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." (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 1995

ISBN: 0-8027-8375-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1995



Strong rhythms and occasional full or partial rhymes give this account of P.T. Barnum’s 1884 elephant parade across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge an incantatory tone. Catching a whiff of public concern about the new bridge’s sturdiness, Barnum seizes the moment: “’I will stage an event / that will calm every fear, erase every worry, / about that remarkable bridge. / My display will amuse, inform / and astound some. / Or else my name isn’t Barnum!’” Using a rich palette of glowing golds and browns, Roca imbues the pachyderms with a calm solidity, sending them ambling past equally solid-looking buildings and over a truly monumental bridge—which soars over a striped Big Top tent in the final scene. A stately rendition of the episode, less exuberant, but also less fictionalized, than Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (2004), illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (author’s note, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-44887-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005



Despite some bright spots, the lapses in information limit this book’s effectiveness.

Celebrations the world over involve parades, foods, traditional clothing, masks, songs, and games.

Information on 14 festivals, country maps, small photos, sidebars with holiday traditions (in the appropriate language, with pronunciations), and instructions for a craft or a recipe make up the jam-packed left-hand page of each spread. Colorful, detailed cartoon illustrations appear opposite. There are certainly interesting facts and activities, but careless errors (including a typo to be corrected in the second printing) and a decided slant toward Western Europe (five countries) diminish the volume’s value. Opening with a monthly timeline, it offers a basic explanation of the lunar calendar, but this is not integrated into the overall schematic. This spread also includes a note about adult help for crafting and cooking. Many of the holidays are commonly celebrated in many places, and the author’s failure to point out that Eid al-Fitr, for instance, is celebrated around the globe and not just in Egypt is a sad, missed opportunity. A few festivals are not often presented in books of this ilk, such as Bhutan’s Dangpai Losar (New Year) and Laternenfest, held on St. Martin’s Day in Germany. The last spread brings children from the different countries together and asks readers to create their own celebrations. Sadly, given the glancing notice necessitated by the format, there are no further resources included.

Despite some bright spots, the lapses in information limit this book’s effectiveness. (glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3213-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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