Saturday, October 15, 2016

REVIEW: And Then the Sky Exploded

And Then the Sky Exploded
Author: David A. Poulsen

**I voluntarily read an Advance Reader's Copy of this book provided by Dundern Press Via NetGalley.**

Teenager Christopher Larkin discovers his great-grandfather's past when protesters attend his funeral. Only then does he understand that the kind, fun old man he knew worked on the Manhattan Project, helping make the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. For Christopher this causes confusion and a strong need to make amends somehow. He travels to Japan on a school trip and meets an 81-year old survivor. But what can a 14-year old teenager do to make amends for a lifetime Yuko has lived with her physical and mental scars from August 6, 1945? His friends think his idea is silly. But Christopher discovers that sometimes listening and understanding can have a profound effect.

I enjoyed this book. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. My father fought in World War II, and I wish my youngest son had gotten to know him. But he never got to hear my father's stories of the war and how terrible it was. I want him to read this book, so that he can understand a little bit about the cost of the war on both sides. Sometimes I think in American history classes the decision to drop the bombs on Japan is glossed over as a choice that was necessary to end the war and stop the killing. On the other side of that decision were thousands of Japanese civilians who had no escape. In the end, the cost of war on both sides is immense. We should never forget what happened, and it should make us ever vigilant to preserve peace.

I was a bit hesitant to read this book at first. I imagined a fictional rant aimed at those who made the decision to drop the bombs and anyone involved, but that's not what this book is about. Far from it. This is a story of a new generation needing to understand that period and the roles their great-grandparents' generation played in it.  The story is not one of blame, but an attempt to bring about a true understanding of peace and forgiveness.

I still have letters my father wrote home from Europe during WWII. I'm going to let my 12-year old read this book and those letters so that he has an understanding of the sacrifices made on both sides. Millions of lives were lost in those years, and we can never allow future generations to forget what caused the conflict, or the decisions that led to the deaths of innocents on both sides. It's staggering to comprehend that in one flash, one moment in time, thousands of people were killed and thousands more left to agonize with burns, radiation poisoning and other physical injuries. Two entire cities. Boom. Gone.  All those people. Many incinerated in an instant.

It can never happen again.

And Then the Sky Exploded is well-written and not overly-graphic. The story is age-appropriate for middle-grade readers. I would have liked to see a bit more of the story written from Yuko's point of view just to get more of the story of her recovery and life after the bombing. But, that might be too much for younger readers. As it is, the story is powerful, moving and very well written. I think this book could be a great classroom tool for history teachers as enrichment during units on WWII for middle school students.

This book was just released today (October 15th, 2016) by Dundern Press. David A. Poulsen is the author of several books including Serpent's Rising and Old Man. Learn more about the author and his books on his website:

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