HIROSHIMA NO PIKA by Toshi Maruki

HIROSHIMA NO PIKA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A picture book about ""the Flash"" at Hiroshima would seem a dubious proposition. Japanese artist and antiwar activist Maruki manages to avoid the opposing perils of giving children nightmares and belittling the horror. The text, based on one woman's account with bits of other people's experiences mixed in, tells of a sunny day and a pleasant family breakfast interrupted by a sudden, terrible flash, followed by fire and chaos. The little girl Mil is knocked unconscious but recovers to run from the debris, fleeing the fire with her mother, who carries Mii's badly wounded father on her back. Crowds of people wander like ghosts, and fall. ""There were heaps of people everywhere."" A man and a cat float down the river, dead. A nursing mother wades into the river and out of sight, carrying her dead baby. Darkness, rain, two rivers, and four days later, Mil is still clutching her breakfast chopsticks. Returning to the city, the family finds ""a burned-out wasteland as far as the eye could see."" Mii's father seems to heal, but he dies within months. ""Mii never grew after that day. Many years have passed and she is still the same size she was when she was seven years old."" Thousands of people died, Maruki adds, and many are still in hospitals. ""There is no cure for their diseases."" On August 6, Mii floats a lantern for her father and another for a swallow who was also a casualty of the Flash. ""It can't happen again,"" she says, ""if no one drops the bomb."" Maruki's illustrations are fluent, expressive, gracefully distorted, a bit pretty for the occasion if judged for adults, but--with all the swirling backgrounds of cloudy fire and the heaped and floating masses of nude bodies--clearly depicting ""something very bad that happened,"" which Maruki describes for young people ""in the hope that their knowing will help keep it from happening again."" The publishers, playing it safe, age the book ""12 up,"" but it reads far more simply, looks like a typical picture book, and is altogether a gentler, and thus suitably younger introduction than Lifton's Return to Hiroshima (1970).

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 1982
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard