Review: The Last Cherry Blossom

Title: The Last Cherry Blossom
Author: Kathleen Burkinshaw
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Year: 2016
Ages: 11 - 13
IBSN: 978-1634506939

Kathleen Burkinshaw's debut novel, The Last Cherry Blossom, tells the story of Yuriko, a girl who grows up in Hiroshima during World War II. The events are based on the life of the author's mother, Toshiko Ishikawa, who survived the drop of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August, 1945. The story follows Yuriko during the year prior to the drop of the atomic bomb. Yuriko has a strong and loving relationship with her Papa. Her Aunt Kimiko and cousin Genji live with them and the family continues to expand. Revelations about family secrets alter Yuriko's life at a moment when she is turning into a young lady while the world is at war. She finds great support in her best friend Machiko. The government of Japan gives the impression that they are going to win the war, but as the novel progresses the characters start to deal with the truth. Then, the unthinkable happens.

My thoughts on The Last Cherry Blossom

Kathleen Burkinshaw uses simple language along with a richness of Japanese culture to show middle graders the end of World War II through the eyes of a young Japanese girl who survived the drop of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The Last Cherry Blossom is an excellent book to use for comparative history in schools. Students could get to comprehend the life experiences of the other side and learn that war has fatal and tragic consequences for everyone involved. What is more, The Last Cherry Blossom could teach children about the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

I loved reading and learning about Japanese culture. I was amazed at their sense of honor and duty. I also thought the family showed an incredible amount of resiliency. It was a beautiful and somber read, and as the story advanced, I wanted time to stop because I knew what was going to happen.

Burkinshaw did historical research for the novel, which is a great educational asset. She also included a selected bibliography and a list of Japanese words and their meanings at the end of the book.

Rating: 5 stars

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