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My Hiroshima
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by Junko Morimoto

Hiroshima is the town of my memories. It is surrounded by green mountains and looks towards the sea. Through it flow seven beautiful rivers.                -Junko Morimoto, title page

Junko Morimoto is a survivor of the destruction of Hiroshima. With childlike simplicity, Morimoto tells of a simple, peaceful childhood that becomes increasingly affected by the war. On August 6, 1945, Morimoto stays home from school. She hears a plane, seemingly "a long way off and very high up." Then comes the "thunderous flash and an explosion of sound" – the atomic bomb. Morimoto lives, but her home and "the whole of Hiroshima was destroyed. Everything was blown away, torn apart. Everything was burning."

 

Morimoto's book is a masterpiece of serenity contrasted with unthinkable calamity. She draws the reader in from the first pages:  The front paste down and flyleaf are a photo album of black-and-white images and people and places in Hiroshima. Her ink and watercolor illustrations reflect life in Japan: clothing, rice-paper house walls, the beauty of the setting. Detailed vignettes show various peoples' activities on the fateful morning. The plane, Enola Gay, contrasts as a dark X against a brilliant blue sky, emphasizing the immense destruction it caused. Morimoto masterfully depicts the sharp light, bright, swirling around Junko and her sister. The next page, a double-spread, has the mushroom cloud at its center, top and bottom framed in bands of dark, swirling shapes. At first the reader might think these shapes are Hiroshima, destroyed. A closer look horrifyingly shows the swirling shapes to be people – mostly arms, legs.

 

Morimoto starkly describes the aftermath:  Father, badly burnt; people fleeing for the river; schools turned into hospitals; "people screaming and moaning in pain, and . . . a horrible smell of burnt skin." In days, the war ends.

 

Life resumes some semblance of normalcy, with students going back to schools. Digging through "the burnt earth," Junko finds "the bones of many of my friends." The rear flyleaf, in a caption below a photograph of what is left of Hiroshima, relates Morimoto's hope:

Let all the souls here rest in peace,

For we shall not repeat the evil.

 

Morimoto's personal experience leads the reader to echo her sentiment. The solemn, convincingly depicted subject matter makes this picture book more appropriate for the older reader.

 

Morimoto, Junko. 1990. My Hiroshima. New York: Penguin. ISBN 0-670-83181-6.

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