Tag Archives: Japan

The Last Paper Crane – Kerry Drewery

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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.

Red Day – Sandy Fussell

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1569817219332

Walker Books Australia

March 2020

ISBN: 9781760651886
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $17.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

It seems very apt to be reviewing Sandy Fussell’s latest book today as we commemorate ANZAC Day albeit in a very different way to the usual events.

This is a very powerful story which blends contemporary life in small town Australia with the past and at the same time explores the sometimes fragile and complicated relationships with family and other people.

Charlie (Charlotte) has synaethesia so for her everything has colour and sometimes emotions: days of the week, people, numbers and even inanimate objects. When Kenichi, a Japanese exchange student, arrives to stay with Charlie and her mother for a week, Charlie is not at all pleased at the prospect. But his arrival also sparks a strange sequences of experiences in which her synaethesia is magnified to an almost frightening extent. She begins to feel nausea and pain, has flashes of the past and hears unfamiliar voices – some of which Kenichi can also detect. As the two begin a tentative partnership to investigate the cause of this distress, a slice of history begins to reveal itself and connects with their present. The Cowra Prisoner-of-War break-out remains a significant event in Australia’s history and while essentially tragic forged a lasting and important testament to forgiveness, peace and hope for the future.

For both the solution of the mystery provides a healing for their families and their dreadful loss of loved ones so important to their lives. Readers will completely connect with the characters who are so very well executed and the peripheral characters of friends and families will provide much fodder for self-reflection on loyalty, courage and ethics.

Definitely a book that will appeal strongly to both boys and girls, from around 12 years upwards, this is another one to promote enthusiastically to readers. I can certainly see many of my keen readers being fascinated by this – not to mention learning a great deal of hitherto unknown information.

Highly recommended for Upper Primary upwards.

Dolls of War – Shirley Parenteau

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dollsofwar

Walker Books Australia

ISBN: 9780763690694
Imprint: Candlewick
Release Date: February 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

 

This is another charming book in the ‘Friendship Dolls’ series. The last one I reviewed examined the narrative from a Japanese girl’s perspective when the American dolls were coming as gifts of friendship to her country.  This one takes another tack with the story of Macy, an American eleven year old in 1941 just after the attack on Pearl Harbour.

The large doll Miss Tokyo and her accompaniments of small dishes, tea set, parasols etc have been a special part of Macy’s life and also the museum of which her father is the curator. Macy’s mother, who has recently died, was raised in Japan and always had a fond association with that country’s people and culture. Macy and her mother always had a special secret relationship with Miss Tokyo, when they pretended to ‘talk’ to her.  Now that her mother is gone, Macy feels an urgent protector role to the doll.

When Pearl Harbour is attacked, Macy’s town like so many other Americans are enraged and retaliate by engaging in mindless violence against all things Japanese. Macy’s lot is not good and realistically her father senses that she would be better off away from their town and in a quieter locale.

There are many twists and turns in this narrative with Macy’s determination to protect the doll and protest the senseless knee-jerk responses.

All in all, it’s another fascinating read for the history and the insight into a fictional participant in this turmoil.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards – and if your school has Japanese as another language or even Lower Secondary students studying World War II a fabulous read for the back story of ordinary people.

 

Dolls of Hope – Shirley Parenteau

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dollsofhope

 

Walker Books

March 2018

ISBN: 9780763677527
Imprint: Candlewick
Australian RRP: $19.99
New Zealand RRP: $22.99

 
A companion book to The Ship of Dolls this continues the little known history of the Friendship Doll project of 1926, this time from the Japanese perspective. Chiyo Tamura has been raised in a very traditional rural Japanese family and has never imagined that she might ever leave her small village. However, when her older sister becomes engaged to a neighbor,  wealthy landowner, Chiyo is sent to Tokyo to a girls’ boarding school. In Tokyo she discovers that Japan is undergoing a cultural shift as the old ways are abandoned and new Western ways are adopted.

She also becomes involved through her school in the Friendship Dolls project when her school is selected to receive one of the special little visitors and even has a hand in crafting the reciprocal gift doll Miss Tokyo.

But there are many dramas, both small and large, along the way as Chiyo struggles to adapt to life in the school and the city, and deals with the inevitable school bully.  Chiyo’s own perception of her own ‘worthiness’ that is her self-esteem and confidence increases as she grows in personality and skills.

Altogether this is a charming book, a very enjoyable read and certainly explored a piece of history of which I was completely unaware.

I highly recommend it to readers from around ten years upwards who will have no difficulty connecting and empathizing with Chiyo.