Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story

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Product Details

$19.99  $18.59
Carolrhoda Books (R)
Publish Date
8.3 X 10.2 X 0.6 inches | 1.52 pounds
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About the Author

Caren Stelson is an award-winning author of nonfiction books that focus on war and peace themes. She believes young readers want to know the truth about their world and how others find resilience and courage in difficult times. Her work includes Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winner A Bowl Full of Peace and Sachiko: A Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivor's Story, which was longlisted for a National Book Award and received a Sibert Honor Award, the Jane Addams Children's Book Award, and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award. Caren and her husband Kim live in Minneapolis.


"As Fat Man hurled toward the city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, Sachiko Yasui, 6, was playing house. She ducked for cover, awaking hours later just 'half a mile from the [bomb's] hypocenter, ', buried beneath mountains of debris, her mouth clogged with ash. Stelson first heard Sachiko speak in August of 2005. From 2010-15, Stelson traveled to and from Nagasaki, conducting a series of five interviews with the singular Sachiko. The result is a story of staggering hardship and extraordinary resolve. In it, Stelson outlines the plight of Sachiko, her family, and other hibakusha ('explosion-affected people'), from the Yasuis' lengthy trek to safety in nearby Shimbara and decimating radiation sickness, to the grueling restoration of a barren city. The narrative is further supplemented by two-page educational tidbits, interspersed throughout. Here, Stelson addresses the Japanese government, Emperor Hirohito and prime minister Hideko Tojo, internment camps, the U.S.'s stifling occupation of Japan, and 'long-term effects of radiation.' With Sachiko forever in the foreground, readers learn of her grievous loss, devotion to education, regard for peace (and its devotees: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Helen Keller), and her fairly recent decision to give voice to her experiences. Sachiko and her story, much like the resilient Nagasaki camphor trees she so admires, are an indelible force. Luminous, enduring, utterly necessary."--starred, Booklist


"Caren Stelson's 'Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story' presents with equal clarity the devastation of the atomic bombing on one small girl. Six-year-old Sachiko was playing outside with friends half a mile from the hypocenter when the bomb fell on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. Her four friends died instantly, but all of Sachiko's family except her 2-year-old brother survived the initial explosion. Within days one brother died of radiation sickness and another from infection. Sachiko, her sister Misa, her mother and her father all suffered terribly from radiation sickness; Misa died of leukemia without ever being strong enough to attend school.

Despite their shattered lives, extreme poverty and desolation, Sachiko's father spoke to her of peace: 'Hate only produces hate.' He taught her about Mohandas K. Gandhi and about Helen Keller, who visited Nagasaki in 1948. As hibakusha, or 'explosion-affected people, ' Sachiko and her parents remained in the mushroom cloud's shadow: Her father died of liver cancer, and Sachiko herself overcame thyroid cancer but had to work hard to regain the ability to speak. She worked as an accountant and studied the words of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. As the 50th anniversary of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki approached, Sachiko found she had something to say. For the next 20 years she traveled in North America and Japan, spreading a message of peace.

Caren Stelson met Sachiko Yasui in Minneapolis in 2005 and made five trips to Japan to interview her. While the book contains historical notes, informational sidebars, photographs and maps, most of the narrative is Sachiko's account, magnetic and chilling in its simplicity. Stelson lets Sachiko become the hero of her own story; her quiet survival is an inspiring trajectory of redemption. Like McCormick, Stelson has created a book that is both personal and universal, both thoroughly researched and real."--The New York Times


"The result of extensive interviews with Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor Sachiko Yasui, Stelson's sensitively crafted account spans fifty years of Yasui's life, starting in August 1945 when the bomb was dropped (she was six years old) and ending in August 1995, when Yasui agreed to speak publicly about her experiences for the first time. Stelson structures her narrative around Yasui's decades-long struggle to find the courage to share her traumatic story with others; her eventual decision to finally speak up--'What happened to me must never happen to you'--is movingly foreshadowed when, years after the bomb, Yasui fights to regain her voice after radiation-related thyroid cancer takes away her ability to talk. Stelson wisely uses a limited-omniscient point of view, allowing readers to see events through Yasui's eyes but not become overwhelmed by the horrors she endured. Her tragic tale is full of terror and despair, but hope and peace also loom large, as Yasui finds strength and inspiration in such figures as Helen Keller, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Interspersed with ten brief, informative essays ('Racism and War, ' 'Radiation Sickness, ' 'The H-Bomb, ' etc.) and illustrated with numerous photos, this is a significant addition to the available material."--The Horn Book Magazine


"Books about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for young people are plentiful, but very few focus on the hibakusha, survivors of the bombings, and this important biography notably fills that gap. Sachiko Yasui was 6 when an atomic bomb exploded half a mile from her home in Nagasaki. After briefly describing the impact of the war on Sachiko's life, Stelson focuses on the immediate aftermath and the years that followed, culminating in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the bombing, when Sachiko began sharing her experiences publicly. The narrative effectively conveys the long-lasting effects of the bombings, including such radiation-related maladies as leukemia and thyroid cancer. Stelson acknowledges that the "necessity" of the atomic bombing to end the war with Japan is debatable. Although Stelson interviewed Sachiko extensively, direct quotes, which would add significant impact to the narrative, are not used, and oddly absent is any sense of Sachiko's feelings about the bombing. Hibakusha typically speak of the atomic bombings as an important lesson to the world and display a sense of goodwill and understanding rather than animosity or bitterness. There is also no discussion about why the United States bombed Nagasaki so soon after Hiroshima, giving the Japanese so little time to assess and respond to the first attack. An important perspective on the atomic bombings, a controversial decision that continues to provoke passionate debate."--Kirkus Reviews


"Sachiko Yasui was just six years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on her hometown of Nagasaki. On August 9, 1945, she went from playing house with her friends to burying them. Yasui also lost a brother that day and would lose many more family members because of radiation sickness. Growing up, she was ostracized for her status as hibakusha, a bomb survivor. Despite her trauma and the bullying she faced, Yasui endured. She sought out inspiration from the likes of Helen Keller, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Their works allowed her to make peace with the events in her life. Stelson recounts hearing Yasui speak at a ceremony to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This event would spark a long and intimate process in which Stelson repeatedly met with and interviewed Yasui in order to tell her story. Frequent historical notes provide context to the events happening in the narrative: Japan's role in World War II, the issue of racism in the war, President Truman's ultimatum, the effects of radiation sickness, the U.S. occupation of Japan after the war, and more. Back matter includes a glossary of Japanese terms used in the book and detailed maps of where events took place. VERDICT: This sensitive and well-crafted account of a Nagasaki bomb survivor is an essential addition to World War II biography collections for middle school students."--starred, School Library Journal


"Sachiko Yasui was 6 years old in August 1945 when American forces shocked the world by dropping two atomic bombs on Japan. When the bomb code-named 'Fat Man' hit, Yasui was a half-mile away from ground zero, playing with friends in a cave that was used as an air-raid shelter. Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story (Carolrhoda, Ages 10 and up) follows Yasui as she grows up and recovers from the damage inflicted that day. One sibling was killed, two older brothers died soon after, and Yasui's little sister died of leukemia at 13. Still, Yasui felt fortunate that she and her parents survived. Author Caren Stelson tells Yasui's story with warmth, sympathy and the vivid details of Yasui's life before and after the bomb exploded. Filled with powerful archival images, the book also sensitively describes the historical context: the players in World War II, the effects of radiation sickness and the details of postwar American occupation of Japan. Stelson mentions recent controversies about wartime commemoration in both Japan and the United States but focuses on Yasui and the peaceful philosophy she and her family adopted despite what happened to them. Quoting Gandhi--'Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind'--Stelson celebrates the fact that Sachiko Yasui lived on to teach such ideas to the next generation."--The Washington Post


"Fifty years after surviving the atomic bombing of Nagasaki as a six-year-old, Sachiko Yasui began to share her story. This moving work of creative nonfiction offers Yasui's account of life in wartime Japan, the 'unspeakable seconds' of the bombing, her family's struggle to survive, the deaths of her siblings from radiation sickness, her thyroid cancer, and her decades-long struggle to find words as a hibakusha, a survivor of the bombing. Photographs and short essays on topics that include 'Racism and War, ' 'Little Boy and Fat Man' (code names for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively), and 'Long-Term Effects of Radiation' provide illuminating background. Throughout, Stelson highlights defining moments in Yasui's life, such as her father's grief over Gandhi's death, Helen Keller's visit to Nagasaki, and Yasui's awareness of nonviolent protests led by Martin Luther King Jr., which influenced her eventual commitment to speak ('Sachiko knew this: the world must never again see nuclear war'). This powerful narrative account of one person finding her voice after insufferable trauma encapsulates a grim era in global history."--Publishers Weekly


"Sachiko," a nonfiction book by Minneapolis writer Caren Stelson, turned up on several 2016 lists, drawing nominations for the National Book Award and the Minnesota Book Award. It's a slim book with a powerful wallop.

Sachiko Yasui was just 6 when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Her first-person account describes the blast and its aftermath, as survivors struggle to find food and water and later die of burns and radiation sickness at overwhelmed hospitals.

Following Japan's surrender in the war, Sachiko finds herself living in a half-finished house, with classmates who don't understand her radiation sickness and mock hibakusha or "explosion-affected people."

As she grows older, Sachiko takes strength from her father's deep study of Gandhi and a postwar visit to Japan by Helen Keller. "All the world is suffering," Keller says. "But it's also full of the overcoming."

The story's first-person account and deep sense of humanity offer young readers a chance to grapple with the hard truths of war.