Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yoko's diary - The life of a young girl in Hiroshima during WWII edited by Paul Ham, translated by Debbie Edwards

Late in the year in Grade six I like to introduce books about WWII. We read books like Rose Blanche and Let the Celebrations begin and then move to the story of Hiroshima by reading My Hiroshima by Junko Morimoto.  My intention is to let students hear the voice of other young children who lived through these times rather than just the bare facts of history.

In My Hiroshima, Junko Morimoto explains how every day, prior to the dropping of the atomic bomb,  they would hear air raid sirens, how everyone has been working to clear older wooden buildings around the city to create fire breaks and there is a struggle to obtain food.  All of these things feature in Yoko's diary too but in more detail and so I am planning to share this book with my students later in the year.

The opening chapters give a background to life in Hiroshima and to Yoko herself.  The diary begins on page 61 starting on 6th April.

"The diary is a class project and bears the stamp of a conscientious little girl who is always trying to do the right thing.  She wants high marks for her work!  She comes across as extremely diligent ... a model child ... The reader might assume she was indeed such a very good girl.  But that assumption should be taken with a grain of salt, given that the diary is a school project."

Having said it is the work of a school girl this book is also very honest.  "It shows the hopes, beliefs and daily life of a young girl in wartime Japan."

Just like The Diary of Anne Frank, and the story of Sadako, Yoko's diary is an important book which does end in tragedy.  There is, however, an important message to take away from all of these books and that is the lesson of peace and hope, the lesson of humanity.

Here is a detailed review.  You might also like to read Hanna's suitcase, To Hope and Back and Sadako and the thousand paper cranes.

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