Cherry Blossoms & Bombers: An Interesting Parallel

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I just finished reading the wonderful new book, The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw, a middle-grade Historical fiction based on the author’s mother’s experience growing up in Hiroshima, Japan during WWII. Kathleen’s mother, Toshiko Ishikawa Hilliker, (Yuriko in the book) was twelve years old when the Atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945.

The Last Cherry Blossom opens with twelve-year old Yuriko in a classroom concerned about an assignment she’s handed in on family history, when air raid sirens go off sending students under their desks. It was 1944 and the war between the United States and Japan had raged since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Through Yuriko, we get a glimpse of the day-to-day life of Japanese school children during the war; their obligations and fears and patriotism for their Emperor and their country. As I read, I couldn’t help thinking about American children and how similar their lives must have been. They too were preparing for attacks not just from Japan, but Germany as well. They too were being coached to climb under their desks at school. A catchy jingle had been written called “Duck & Cover,” so they wouldn’t forget. They too had to be terrified of the unknown, this horrible thing called, War.  

In the book, We Bought A WWII Bomber, we learn of the wartime rationing of food, clothing, and gasoline, the same things that were scarce in Yuriko’s Hiroshima. Children in both countries participated in collecting paper, metals of all kinds, clothing and rubber. They made gardens to grow food for their families. They rolled bandages and did whatever they could. And in America, when one school was challenged to participate in the “Buy a Bomber” program, they worked hard initiating sales of over $375,000 in U.S. War Bonds and War Loan Stamps and bought a B-17 bomber to help end the war. 

In Japan middle school and high school students were sent to work in the factories while in America, some high school students chose to leave school to work in them. Patriotism was high among the children on both sides of the war. They revered their leaders, loved their respective countries and felt it was their duty to help in the war effort to bring their fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins home safely.   

While We Bought A WWII Bomber, enlightens readers to the amazing patriotism that permeated the United States of America during WWII, especially among American children, The Last Cherry Blossom, forces us to think differently about the Japanese as people, far different from their brutal leaders, who, from an American perspective, had been a terrifying enemy during WWII.

Both of these books, one a historical fiction based on the true life experiences of a 12-year old child who survived the bombing of Hiroshima and the other a non-fiction based on the extraordinary tale of the achievement of school aged children, remind us all that even though our political thoughts and beliefs may vary, at the core of humanity we are one.  

Both Books Available on Amazon: 

The Last Cherry Blossom
We Bought A WWII Bomber


Gretchen Griffith said...

Great comparison, Sandra. I've read both books and I get what you presented in this post. War's unintended victims are the children, no matter which side they are on.

Sandra Warren said...

You are absolutely right, Gretchen. Thank you for your comment.

Carol Baldwin said...

Great comparison. These books should be next to each other on classroom shelves!

Linda A. said...

Well done, Sandra. I hope you two do book signings together, in addition to the SCBWI-C Conference, I mean!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Sandra,
What a great comparison of your book and Kathleen's book. I've read both and your opinions are well-founded.

I hope both you and Kathleen continue selling a bunch of these stories.

Believe in You
Never Give Up

Sandra Warren said...

Wow! Such wonderful comments:

Thank you Carol for your classroom comment. It would be a wonderful lesson from both sides of the war.

Thank you Linda for the idea of dual book signings. Maybe.

Thank you Joan for your continued support.

Sarah Maury Swan said...

Excellent comparison, Sandra. I've yet to read either book, will do so immediately. And you're so right that humans, no matter their country or ethnicity, have more in common than they have in differences. Well done. Sarah

Kathleen said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful post. I definitely see the comparisons and how our books complement each other as well. I would love to do an event with you. Also Joyce Moyer Hostetter's book AIM also deals with WWII.

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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