My Heroshima, a picture-book memoir of the 1945 Hiroshima tragedy, is extraordinary. With delicate Japanese-style watercolors, photographs, and a spare text written from a child’s perspective, it tells the horrifying story of an ordinary little girl whose family suffered through and miraculously survived the first atomic attack.
Junko Morimoto economically evokes the traditional Japan of her early childhood, with its peaceful family routines, along with the growing militarism of wartime Japan, and then the unimaginable day of the bomb. The full-page illustration of a brilliant blue sky with one distant airplane streaking above the city the moment before the blast is absolutely heart- stopping in its innocence and menace.
Morimott doesn’t shy away from the story. Her impressionistic paintings of the explosion, and of the screaming, burned, and dying survivors, are truly terrible. Because the perceptions are those of a little girl — in the rubble of her school she finds a lunch box with burnt, black rice inside, and ”the bones of many of my friends” — they strike to the heart.
But her message of peace is equally powerful and clear.
Many conscientious parents will welcome this book as strong but necessary medicine, full of truths that must be heard. But a word of caution: Though Viking recommends My Hiroshima for children ages 5 and up, I wouldn’t recommend it for children under 8. A