The Last Paper Crane
by Kerry Drewery
One thousand paper cranes to achieve your heart’s desire.
1945, Hiroshima: Ichiro is a teenage boy relaxing at home with his friend Hiro. Moments later there is a blinding flash as the horrific nuclear bomb is dropped. With great bravery the two boys find Hiro’s fiveyear-old sister Keiko in the devastated and blasted landscape. With Hiro succumbing to his wounds, Ichiro is now the only one who can take care of Keiko. But in the chaos Ichiro loses her when he sets off to find help.
Seventy years later, the loss of Keiko and his broken promise to his dying friend are haunting the old man’s fading years. Mizuki, his grandaughter, is determined to help him. As the Japanese legend goes, if you have the patience to fold 1,000 paper cranes, you will find your heart’s desire; and it turns out her grandfather has only one more origami crane to fold…
Narrated in a compelling mix of straight straight narrative,
free verse and haiku poems, this is a haunting and powerful novel of courage and survival, with full-page illustrations by Natsko Seki.
Ichiro’s story is both haunting and heartbreaking. I’ve not read a lot about Hiroshima and the disastrous events that happened there in 1945, so this was a real eye opener for me. Of course, I knew that this bomb, and also the one in Nagasaki, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, but to be honest, I’d never really thought about this much more than a statistic and this wasn’t a part of my education when learning about WW2 at school. Although fictional, Ichiro’s story is based on these true events and the writing style was so very moving that it provided a much more human view than reading a history book or the Wikipedia page can provide you with.
The author’s note at the beginning of this book explains that she’s not Japanese and she’s not lived through these events but I really appreciate the detailed level of research that has gone into this book and it’s clear that Kerry Drewery feels very passionately about telling this story.
“I couldn’t let the story go. And I kept thinking that is stories are only told by people who were there, then gradually everything will fade from time and memory. Some things are too important to let go; they should never be forgotten. We – everyone – have too much to lose.”
This book is written in a really unique format, with a traditional novel sandwiched between sections of lyrical free verse and haikus. I loved the traditional narrative in the middle but I didn’t feel quite the same about the formatting of the free verse. I think the poetic meaning of it being written this way went over my head a little so I couldn’t really appreciate it, but format aside, the words and meaning were still very powerful for me.
This is a fast paced book and you could devour it in one sitting. I was absolutely engrossed in this story and had time allowed I would have done this myself. This book is being published as YA fiction, and I agree that it’s a important read for young people, especially those studying WW2 at school, but I also think that this would appeal to a wider audience. I’d definitely recommend this book for anyone looking to learn a little bit more about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima.
Overall rating: “The Last Paper Crane” tells the emotional, haunting story of a young man’s struggle for survival following the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. I really enjoyed the poignant narrative and feel that I’ve learned a lot through this eye opening tale – 5 stars!
Thank you to Readers First for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.