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. On the morning of August 6, 1945, 12-year-old Sachi and her classmates pull on their pitifully inadequate air-raid hoods when an alarm sounds, signifying the approach of an American bomber. They and others feel, ironically, a deep sense of relief when the aircraft passes by-the plane's mission, in fact, is to scout out the weather over Hiroshima; if there are clouds, the Enola Gay will be directed to drop its atom bomb on another city. But a single gap opens in the clouds directly over the target site, and "the sunlight pours through the hole on to the city." This is the last bit of brightness in Yep's story, which with haunting simplicity describes the actual bombing: "There is a blinding light like a sun. There is a boom like a giant drum. There is a terrible wind. Houses collapse like boxes. Windows break everywhere. Broken glass swirls like angry insects." Though Yep's spare, deliberate description of the bomb's consequences delivers a brutal emotional punch-and though it is on the whole extremely well suited to the target audience-his novella has some jarring stylistic elements. Broken into brief chapters ("The Bomb," "The City," "The Attack," "Destruction," "Peace?"), the narrative is choppy. The text, for example, makes a hasty chronological jump from the announcement that WWII is over to Sachi's experience as one of 25 "Hiroshima Maidens," who in 1955 traveled to the United States for plastic surgery to correct disfiguring burns. And although expressing an opinion is clearly the novelist's prerogative, it should be noted that the story Yep relays is hardly balanced; witness the two simple sentences about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, which make no mention of the resulting human casualties: "Four years before, on December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked American ships in Hawaii without warning. Caught by surprise, many ships and planes were wrecked at the naval base, Pearl Harbor." Yet in what is one of his tale's most haunting moments, Yep interjects the resonant words of an American-the Enola Gay's copilot-who, surveying the destruction just after the bomb has hit Hiroshima, scribbles a note to himself: "What have we done?" This powerful chronicle ensures that what was done on that awful day will remain in readers' memories for a very long time. Ages 8-11. (May)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Gr 4-6-Through a stacatto, present-tense narration that moves back and forth between the experiences of a 12-year-old girl and the men on the Enola Gay, Yep's novella tells the events of the day the first atomic bomb was dropped and its aftermath. Sachi survives but is badly burned; her sister dies and her soldier father is killed in action. For three years the girl spends most of her time indoors, as newcomers to the city fear the scarred survivors. Then she travels to America for plastic surgery, which enables her to take part in her society again. She returns to Japan, hoping to help other victims. Yep ends with two chapters on the destructive potential of nuclear warfare and on some of the efforts being made toward disarmament. His words are powerful and compelling, and the facts he presents make readers realize the horrors of that day and its impact beyond. As a fictional character, Sachi never becomes much more than a name, but even so, readers will be moved by her tale. Hiroshima has a more adult format than Junko Morimoto's more personal My Hiroshima (Viking, 1990) or Toshi Maruki's Hiroshima No Pika (Lothrop, 1982), both of which tell the story in pictures as well as in words.-Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ
r. 47. In quiet, simple prose, Yep tells what happens when the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. He tells it in short chapters in the present tense, switching from crewmen on the "Enola Gay" to children in a Hiroshima classroom; then he describes the attack, the mushroom cloud, and the destruction of the city; finally, he talks about the aftermath, immediate and long term, including the arms race and the movement for peace. One chapter explains the physics of the explosion and of radiation. The facts are so dramatic and told with such controlled intensity that we barely need the spare fictionalization about a young Hiroshima child who is there when the bomb falls and who later comes to the U.S. for treatment (Yep says in an afterword that she's a composite of several children). The account is fair, nonhectoring, and totally devastating. Though accessible to middle-grade readers, this will also interest older readers, who will find nothing condescending in content or format. Fifty years later, the event is still the focus of furious controversy (even the numbers are in dispute), and this novella will start classroom discussion across the curriculum. There's a bibliography for further reading.