Hiroshima by Laurence Yep

Yep, Laurence. 1995. Hiroshima. New York, NY: Scholastic, Inc. ISBN 0590208322.

Plot Summary:
Hiroshima begins with some historical background information about the atom bomb and then information about the city of Hiroshima itself. Yep then sets the scene for the story and introduces the reader to his characters, two sisters Sachi and Riko. Afterward the reader is walked through the attack, the destruction, the aftermath, and plans for peace. Yep talks about the United States efforts to make amends in Japan by offering medical help to some of the young women survivors in Hiroshima. Afterward, he goes onto talk about memorials and remembering the attack so that it doesn’t happen again.

Critical Analysis:
The majority of the story takes place during World War II, mainly in Japan in the city of Hiroshima in 1945. While reading, the author’s voice seems to transports the reader back to Hiroshima on that August day in 1945.

Hiroshima presents some harsh realities to the reader without sugar coating the story or being overly gruesome for the reader’s age. The story also does not seem to be slanted in any direction as painting the United States or Japan as the “bad guys”. Yep presents the details, obviously rooted in fact, without taking a side and allowing the reader some insight into what actually happened and what it meant for everyone.

Everything flows together so well, that you almost forget you’re reading fiction, but rather just have some rare insight into the life of a Hiroshima survivor. Yep presents a nice blend and balance of fact and fiction with no apparent biases. I particularly enjoyed the book’s afterword and source list where Yep discusses statistical discrepancies and where he got his figures from in the book. The book also shows some related events that took place after the bombing, such as survivors receiving medical help in the United States and some memorials in Japan for those who died.

When reading, it is apparent that the theme in this story is to not let history repeat itself. It encourages the reader to learn from his or her mistakes and from the past in ordr to create a better future. “Rest in peace for the mistake shall not be repeated.”

When I was reading this book my grandmother called me and said, “Does it make us look like the bad guy?” And you know what, it didn’t. I loved the unbiased retelling of such a tragically important event in world history. To be honest, this book opened me up to the genre of historical fiction. Usually, I am a strict nonfiction reader but after reading and enjoying Hiroshima, I had to reconsider. It is my understanding from other reviews and recommendations that this is typical of Laurence Yep’s work. I can’t wait to read some more of his novels.

Review Excerpts:
Laurence Yep is an award-winning author, however no awards were given for this book.

“…Yep’s novella tells the events of the day the first atomic bomb was dropped and its aftermath… His words are powerful and compelling, and the facts he presents make readers realize the horrors of that day and its impact beyond.” – School Library Journal

“Yep’s account of the bombing of Hiroshima and its devastating aftermath is at once chilling and searing, hushed and thundering. Within a factual framework, the author sets the fictional story of a girl named Sachi, allegedly a composite of several young residents of the bombed city… This powerful chronicle ensures that what was done on that awful day will remain in readers’ memories for a very long time.” – Publishers Weekly

“In quiet, simple prose, Yep tells what happens when the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima in 1945…. Fifty years later, the even is still the focus of furious controversy… and this novella will start classroom discussion across the curriculum” – Booklist

Art or Humanities: Students could make origami paper cranes for Sadako’s statue at the Hiroshima memorial in Japan.
American History: Students can read this for an enrichment study during a World War II lesson.
ELA: Many ELA classes read The Diary of Anne Frank, for a historical unit students can also read this book.


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