Student/Teacher dual review - The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

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I admit it... I am a historical fiction junkie. I. Love. Historical. Fiction. I also cannot believe I am going to admit this... but I didn't really realize it was a genre until I was an adult. I just do not remember being introduced to very much historical fiction as a kid - except for maybe Number the Stars and The Diary of Anne Frank (non-fiction).

When Kathleen Burkinshaw contacted me about reviewing The Last Cherry Blossom, I was really excited because I had had my eye on it and knew it would be an interesting read! I was right! As Simon says below, it was nice to read a WWII novel from Japan's perspective! 

Thank you to my former student, Simon who is now in 5th grade that happily worked on this review with me! 

Mrs. Kuehler’s review:

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw is about a 12 year old girl in Japan named Yuriko. The year is 1945 and, as we know, the end of WWII is near. Life for Yuriko in Japan at this time is filled with worry, change, air raid drills, the possibility of bombing and family secrets.  
        The first half of the book we learn a lot about Yurkio’s daily life, her likes and dislikes and what life is like at school. About halfway through the book, Yuriko learns about a devastating family secret that she is the center of. At this point of the book, we are occasionally reminded that this isn’t just a book about family dynamics and secrets, this is a book about a world war. Reminders come in the form of nearby friends being sent to war, friends Yuriko’s age being pulled out of school to help with the war effort and the family sometimes leaving their home in Hiroshima to stay at their country house. Life in Japan is filled with unrest and worry. There are frequent air raids and the Japanese have to take cover and find shelter during these raids. During this time people wonder if this is a bomb that will hit them. Will they lose their home? Their family? Their friends? The thought of going through that is heartbreaking.
        However, it gets worse. As the reader, we know that the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Each chapter is labeled with the date so while reading I felt myself preparing my myself mentally for what was to come. What Yuriko experienced during the bombing was horrifying and hard to believe it was real. But, it was.
        Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres because I believe it is important to read and understand from a personal point of view what life was like during that time period. It’s hard to relate to history from a textbook, but when I read a story like Yuriko's, I am not likely to forget what she went through.
        This book will appeal to readers that enjoy learning about history in a narrative way. Readers that enjoy learning about WW2 will want to pick this book up. This will also appeal to readers that enjoy reading books with true content. Be sure to read the author’s notes at the end because this book was based on the author’s mother’s real-life experiences while living in Japan during the war.  I would recommend this book for ages 11 to adults and caution for some mature content.  

Simon’s Review:

        The Last Cherry Blossom is a book about a girl named Yuriko who lives in Hiroshima during World War II.  This historical fiction piece is a story about love, friendship, and family. Along with worry, sadness, and despair, I would recommend this book for ages 12 and up because of some mature content. The Last Cherry Blossom includes some interesting facts about WWII.  It was interesting because I have read a lot of books about WWII, but not from Japan’s point of view.  Yuriko faces some surprises from family to war. The culture in this book is fun to learn about. From clothing to food.  The Last Cherry Blossom is a really good book if you want to read something filled with action and suspense.  

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