Peace Is a Chain Reaction: How World War II Japanese Balloon Bombs Brought People of Two Nations Together

Candlewick. Sept. 2022. 176p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780763676865.
Gr 4-6–When Japan struck Pearl Harbor in 1941, it sparked a devastating war in the Pacific. The United States reacted by forcing all Japanese Americans into internment camps. In this narrative nonfiction book, three stories about the events surrounding the war in the Pacific are expertly woven together. When the United States dropped bombs over Japan, the Japanese retaliated by creating giant balloon bombs, 33 feet in diameter. These balloons carried three bombs each all the way across the Pacific to the United States (over 9,000 were launched). The bombs were manufactured in secret facilities by teenage schoolgirls. Only 300 bombs were found in North America (one as recently as 2019): one had devastating consequences. Six civilians were on their way to a picnic in Oregon and discovered one of the bombs and inadvertently set it off, killing everyone in the immediate area. This book describes events from the perspective of the victims and survivors of the balloon bomb in Oregon, the schoolgirls who made the bombs in Japan, and a young Japanese American’s experience in an internment camp. These stories are intertwined and show how people’s perspectives change through time. There are occasional points of interest throughout each chapter, as well as many historical photographs of the balloons, and life in the internment camps. The author also provides extensive notes and an expansive bibliography. Back and front matter contain a table of contents and an index.
VERDICT A wonderful selection for nonfiction shelves, this is a compelling narrative of peace and war—but most importantly, redemption.

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