A sense of the futility of war and the heartlessness of involving children in working for the war is gained upon reading this book.

It is the true story of Yoko, a young girl growing up in Japan at the time of the Hiroshima bomb. She was working 700 metres from the centre of the bomb on the day it struck and bore the full brunt of it. Japanese school children were expected by the government to work on farm plots, in munitions factories, and in areas that were at risk of aerial bombing. Yoko was taken to a nearby centre to be nursed with severe burns to her entire body. She waited several hours anxiously for her mother to come. Sadly, her mother and father were unable to reach her before it was too late, and she died asking “Isn’t Mother here yet?”

Her diary includes parts written by her brother, father, a letter to her mother from the nurse who cared for her in her final moments, and relatives. There are diary entries leading right up to the day of the atomic bomb. They give an historical account of the times and an insight into the warm and sunny personality of Yoko.

Sounds of the street bring Japan of the 1940’s vibrantly to life, and Japanese culture and history are faithfully recorded. People ‘clap twice’ to awaken the Shinto spirits in shrines all over the country, children sing anti-American songs, troops ‘bellow’ orders, family volunteers ‘chant’ during their morning exercises, and trams hustle up and down the street picking up workers for demolition sites amidst the ‘awful’ air-raid sirens. There is the remote and ‘holy’ personage of the Emperor to whom civilians were expected to pledge loyalty even unto death.

Paul Ham’s annotations accurately describe the items that keep a war going – such things as armaments supplies, the need for metal to make bullets, coal and oil for heating and hot water. Altogether a very insightful and touching personal and historical picture that will add significantly to accounts of the time.

A former children’s librarian, Jane Fagan is currently a full-time mother of two.