Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Audio : Audio Book


Fall 2017 Audio Book
Ages: 10 & Up
CD Price: $39.99

Caren Stelson's recounting of a young girl who survived the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki, Japan at the close of World War II is both a thorough historical account and a piercing personal one.

Stelson begins Sachiko Yasui's story on a day she is playing with a friend—and her life and those of everyone around her—changes in an instant. Stelson follows Sachiko through adolescence and into adulthood, to the grown woman who is now the last living witness to her family's harrowing and heart-wrenching story.

Stelson's narrative asides provide a thorough account, and context of a horrific moment in world history. In contrast, the chapters in which she recounts Sakachi's own story are up-close and intimate, and the audiobook's use of two distinctively different narrators works well to set these apart. The chapters in which Katherine Fenton narrates Sakachi's personal story are powerful, and filled with small details and beautiful imagery: grandmother's special porcelain bowl, the camphor trees, the long-legged American soldiers, the three boxes of cremation ashes her family moved from house to house. John Chancer's voice skillfully provides the less personal; the facts and history's hindsight.

Sachiko survived, in the face of tragedy and loss and the ongoing damage from radiation. In her late teens she lost her voice to thyroid cancer, a common after-effect of exposure. Her journey to recover it - both literally and metaphorically - as well as her sheer will to live, has been lifelong.

Although startling to realize that the 50-year anniversary of the bombing—a moment that was commemorated in both the United States and Japan happened over 20 years ago— listening to Caren Stelson's book makes it feel raw and present and devastating.

During the 50th anniversary of the bombing, at age 56, Sachiko was asked to speak to a group of sixth-graders and their parents. Her message was positive - about survival and the importance of life. You can almost feel the tears they wiped away.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2017 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

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