Soul Lanterns

Delacorte. Mar. 2021. 176p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780593174340.
Gr 5-8–Even though the bombing of Hiroshima happened 25 years ago, 12-year-old Nozomi is discovering that the trauma of that day still lingers. At the annual Lantern Floating Ceremony to remember those who were killed, an older woman seemingly mistakes Nozomi for her mother. This puzzling encounter prompts Nozomi to wonder about her mother’s possible ties to the stranger. Shortly after, Nozomi’s art teacher becomes seriously ill and leaves school to convalesce. These situations lead to Nozomi and her friends’ increasing awareness of the long-term emotional and physical effects of the bombing. They dedicate their upcoming art club project to learning more about the experiences of their families and neighbors on that fateful day. Subsequent chapters focus on individual narratives told by survivors about losing loved ones during the bombing. These are devastating accounts, full of sorrow for lives cut short and regret at words unspoken. Opening up about their loss and sharing their stories are cathartic for the survivors, unveiling new layers of understanding and compassion from the young listeners. Told with sincerity and respect, this moving work honors the past while emphasizing a message of peace for the future.
VERDICT This gut-wrenching tale of the Hiroshima bombing from a Japanese perspective is a tender and honest exploration of empathy in the aftermath of unimaginable pain and grief.

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