The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw
(Sky Pony Press – August 2016)
Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book to #kidlitexchange for review purposes – all opinions are my own. I did already have a copy in my school library as well.
Haunting and impeccably written for a middle grade audience, THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM is a required purchase for middle grade libraries and classrooms. This story follows 12-year-old Yuriko and her family in the time period surrounding and including the August 6, 1945 bombing of Hiroshima at the end of Word War II. In addition to the storyline involving the war and bombing, Burkinshaw has included storylines involving friends and family secrets that provide richness and entertainment. Burkinshaw draws on the true experiences of her mother’s experiences as a child in Hiroshima for this book, making it an even more unique and compelling story for young and adult readers alike. Included in the back pages are an afterword that explains the genesis of the book, as well as a glossary of the Japanese terms used throughout the story and a list of statistics about Hiroshima.
THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM would be an amazing middle grade read aloud, and has possibilities for countless lessons surrounding the topics in the book. Just one example of this is propaganda – included as chapter headings in the book are headlines from news stories and propaganda posters being used in the city during this time period – this information is also woven within the book and provides excellent backstory to the political situation in Japan during this time period.
Burkinshaw also has a discussion guide for the book that can be requested on her website and provides Skype visits to classes reading the book.
I can not recommend this book highly enough – Yuriko and her family will linger with readers as evidence of the impact of the horrific atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and the true nature of the devastation on residents of the city and surrounding areas.
The author is hosting an amazing giveaway now as well – you can enter here! Winners will be chosen on Thursday, August 31 2017 (US and Canada addresses only).