Thursday, August 6, 2015

'Hiroshima' (70 years today): Remembered with Children's Books

On the 6th August 1945 the first of two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. The first was on Hiroshima and led to the death of an estimated 140,000 people. A second was dropped on Nagasaki on the 9th August that is estimated to have killed 80,000 people. However, it is difficult to estimate numbers as people are still dying from the effects of the two explosions. Debates rage still about the justification for the bombing and its use to end WWII. Irrespective of our views on this, today at the very least, we should consider the impact of such weapons and their potential to do even more catastrophic things given their even greater power today.

To mark this anniversary I would suggest the following four books are worth sharing with children aged 6-11. The first is a picture book that tells the story of Junko Morimoto who stayed home from school on the 6th August 1945 and lived, while many friends died. The second is a picture book by Toshi Maruki that recounts a story that a woman told her when she visited an exhibition of Maruki's atomic bomb paintings. The third is a short novel for younger readers that tells the story of a nine year-old girl who died just seven years after the explosion from Leukaemia as a consequence of the bombing. The fourth tells the story of how Aboriginal Australians living in remote parts of Australia died as a result of atomic testing in the 1950s. I share this because it shows that in spite of the catastrophic impact of the atomic bombs on Japan, efforts were still occurring to develop weapons of this kind by Britain with the support of Australia. All offer opportunities to reflect on these powerful stories and the challenge of achieving peace. 

1. 'My Hiroshima' by Junko Morimoto (1987)

This is the true story of how one little girl survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. Junko Morimoto narrates the story of her family, her early life and memory of life in Japan during the second World War, and the day she was hit by a “thunderous flash and an explosion of sound” and the miracle of her survival. This moving simple retelling of that day in word, family photographic record and illustration, uses the place and her experience to recall an event that changed her life and that of the world.

2. 'Hiroshima No Pika' written and illustrated by Toshi Maruki

Toshi Maruki (1912-2000) was born in Hokkaido and studied Western art. In 1950 she began painting significant works about the impact of atomic weapons. With her husband and fellow artist Iri Maruki they produced the 'Hiroshima Panels'. Later paintings also focussed on wartime atrocities such as Auschwitz, the Nanking Massacre, and also environmental disasters. The Marukis received a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result of their pacifist work. Toshi produced many children's books with vivid and colourful illustrations.

The story was motivated by a woman who entered an exhibition of her atomic bomb paintings in Hokkaido one day and seized the microphone to tell her emotional story of the day the bomb dropped on her home town of Hiroshima. The book is based largely on this woman's story. The story tells of the heartbreaking experience of seven-year-old Mii and her parents that began at 8:15 a.m. on the 6th August 1945, when the atomic bomb "Little Boy" was dropped on their city.

3. 'Sadako and the Thousand paper Cranes' by Eleanor Coerr and illustrated by Ronald Himler

This amazing and moving book is based on the true story of an 11-year-old Japanese girl diagnosed with leukaemia as a consequence of the bombing of Hiroshima. Sadako Sasaki was just 2 when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. For a number of years she is a normal child and the star of the school running team. But one day there are dizzy spells and eventually, a telling diagnosis. This true story tells how a little girl faces her future bravely by drawing on the encouragement of a Japanese legend. The legend suggests that if a sick person folds one thousand cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again.
This is a story of extraordinary courage that made one young woman a heroine in Japan

4. 'Maralinga: The Anangu Story' written and illustrated by the Yalata and Oak communities with Christobel Mattingley

This is the story of the British atomic testing of the 1950s in Central Australia. It is told and illustrated by Indigenous Australians who are the traditional owners of Maralinga that was used for the testing.  In words and pictures the community members, describe what happened in the Maralinga Tjarutja lands of South Australia before the bombs and after. This is an important and tragic account of human folly and its consequence for a people who were there first, but whose needs counted for little.

The book was an outcome of the collaboration of well-known Australian author Christobel Mattingley's collaboration with these two remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia. 


Unknown said...

I am also fond of Christobel Mattingley's picture book The miracle tree which deals with the bombing of Japan and its aftermath in people's lives. I find it very touching. Elizabeth Greef

Trevor Cairney said...

Nice to hear from you Liz. Thanks for this reminder, 'The Miracle Tree is a wonderful book. Forgot it as it's not on my shelves.