Stelson (Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story) opens this picture book biography of a Japanese peace activist before the start of WWII. Kusaka, making his U.S. debut, shows Sachiko’s family of seven gathered around the table to eat from a bowl that belonged to her grandmother. “Itadakimasu,” they intone, expressing gratitude for their food. The war brings air raids, but the cataclysm that shakes Nagasaki in early August is different; the city and everything it holds is incinerated, and Sachiko’s little brother, Toshi, is immediately killed. Poisoned by radiation, Sachiko’s siblings and parents sicken and die one by one. Her grandmother’s bowl miraculously survives, recovered intact from the ruins of their house. Each year in August, Sachiko fills it with ice to remember her family’s thirst and suffering. At last, she resolves to tell their story: “The world must know that such a bomb can never be used again.” The soft edges of Kusaka’s digital artwork mimic pastel images and show the catastrophe and its aftermath directly. The story may well spur discussion about war, but it will require careful context-setting to answer questions about the effects of nuclear war and radiation. Ages 6–11. Author’s agent: Rubin Pfeffer, Rubin Pfeffer Content. (May)■
"Each evening Sachiko's family gathers around their table in Nagasaki, Japan. Before the Second World War, Grandmother's bowl is the centerpiece of every meal, filled with squid, eel, octopus, and udon noodles; as the war rages on, it contains only wheat balls in boiled water. Sachiko is just six years old when the atomic bomb drops. She survives the bomb, which kills three of her brothers—one immediately, and two later from radiation exposure. Surviving family returns to Nagasaki two years later to find their house in ashes but Grandmother's bowl unharmed—a symbol of survival. Stelson (Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story, rev. 1/17) builds her debut picture book around this one element of Sachiko's story. Kusaka's illustrations effectively focus on Sachiko's family and the ways they used the bowl to create an orderly family life even in the midst of, and after, a devastating war. The ceramic bowl is the focal point of many of the uncluttered digital paintings: placed in the center of a square table, surrounded with formally arranged chopsticks and dishes. This image is repeated through the book, providing the reader with breathing space amidst dark images of war. The bomb itself is powerfully shown as a ball of fire in a series of spreads, with red light glowing through heavy black clouds. The third-person narrative's calm, direct tone and the hopeful ending make this difficult, sophisticated material manageable for older elementary-school and middle-school children. An author's note includes additional information about Japan during the war, international efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, and a brief bibliography."—starred, The Horn Book Magazine
Gr 2–5—Stelson's picture book describes a family who gathered for an evening meal and served their food in a special bowl inherited from their grandmother. No matter how much or how little food the bowl held, father, mother, sisters, and brothers all offered thanks. Living in Japan in the 1940s, six-year-old Sachiko Yasui became accustomed to wartime food shortages. When air-raid sirens announced the arrival of bombers, the family quickly sought shelter. On August 9, 1945, there was no warning, and the bomb that fell on Nagasaki had devastating consequences. Sachiko's youngest brother was killed instantly, and her other two brothers perished a short time later. Sachiko, her parents, and her sister became ill. They recovered and eventually returned to Nagasaki. As they started to rebuild their home, they were amazed to find Grandmother's unbroken bowl in the wreckage. When radiation slowly caused the deaths of Sachiko's family members, she realized she must use her voice to work for peace. The untarnished bowl is an effective symbol of hope. Digitally painted illustrations convey devastation and sorrow but are not graphic. VERDICT This book, written by the same author as the Sibert Honor–winning Sachiko, introduces the topic of nuclear war to a younger audience. A useful resource that could be tied to the International Day of Peace.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond
A picture-book adaptation of the Sibert Honor book Sachiko: A Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivor (2016).
No one knows where Grandmother’s bowl came from, but everyone knows that it is precious. Passed down from mother to daughter, Grandmother’s bowl sits, full of food, in the middle of young Sachiko Yasui’s family table. Before every meal, everyone bows their heads and whispers, “itadakimasu,” or “we humbly receive this food.” As soldiers and sounds of war move into Nagasaki, Japan, Grandmother’s bowl holds less and less, but still, they express their gratitude. One day when Sachiko is playing outside, an enemy bomber approaches, and Nagasaki is destroyed. Forced to leave, Sachiko’s family experiences loss and sickness over the next few years before they return to Nagasaki. Digging through the rubble, Father finds Grandmother’s bowl without a chip or crack. Each year they fill Grandmother’s bowl to remember those they’ve lost and to pray for peace. Stelson shares this true story with young readers through a thoughtful, moving text. Kusaka’s illustrations are powerful and vivid, bringing readers into Sachiko’s experiences and emotions. Their chalky, weathered texture helps to keep the terrifying two-spread sequence that depicts the bombing from completely overwhelming readers. Text and art work together to show the devastating, lasting consequences of war and to convey a message of hope and peace for the future.
A heartbreaking but essential perspective on war and survival. (author’s note, photos, illustrator’s note, further reading) (Picture book/biography. 6-11)