The Last Paper Crane – Kerry Drewery

Standard

Allen & Unwin

July 2020

ISBN: 9781471408472

Publisher: Bonnier

Imprint: Hotkey

RRP $16.99

Much has been written in the past 75 years about the horrific devastation that was the bombing of Hiroshima (and Nagasaki). It is an event the pain and suffering of which still resonates in modern times and with hindsight, even some of those whose militaristic justifications argued for the necessity of this dreadful action have modified their thoughts. Arguably, in light of recent global events the examination of tragedies such as this are even more imperative.

While this is a fictional account there can be no denying the essential truth of the emotions, repercussions and conflicting attitudes that surround not only the act itself but the consequences. Part free verse and part prose it is hauntingly poignant, beautiful and sombre but offers hope for victims to make peace with their own past.

Japanese teenager, Mizuki, knows that her much-loved grandfather is troubled – not only by his fading faculties and strength but by a much deeper grief than she can possibly fathom. It takes some persuasion but eventually Mizuki is able to hear the full account of Ichiro’s terrible memories of the day the bomb fell on his city and the even more terrible events that came after.

On the day of the bombing Ichiro was with his friend Hiro and when their whole life and surrounds explode without warning their one shared thought is to find their family members but particularly Hiro’s little sister Keiko. The reader shares in Ichiro’s struggle and distress as he loses first Hiro and then has to ‘abandon’ Keiko because he is unable to go any further without help. All his life his guilt at this unavoidable desertion has eaten away at his conscience and so Mizuki determines to help him find out Keiko’s fate in the hope that it may help him eventually heal before his time runs out.

The bravery of the young Hiro and his deeply felt guilt is a harrowing story but the other side of the tragedy – the support of a Japanese-American nurse with the rescue troops as well as the many people who guarded the paper cranes that Ichiro folded and left as talismans and guideposts for little Keiko is uplifting.

Students of history may find plenty of factual accounts of this heinous military act but those who wish to go deeper and find a greater and more compassionate understanding of the full consequences of the bomb will benefit immensely from this sensitive and powerful narrative.

Highly recommended for readers from around upper primary upwards and for aany school that encourages ‘read around your topic’ this is a must-have.

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