Soul Lanterns

by Shaw Kuzki (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

The haunting and poignant story of a how a young Japanese girl's understanding of the historic and tragic bombing of Hiroshima is transformed by a memorial lantern-floating ceremony. Twelve-year-old Nozomi lives in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. She wasn't even born when the bombing of Hiroshima took place. Every year Nozomi joins her family at the lantern-floating ceremony to honor those lost in the bombing. People write the names of their deceased loved ones along with messages of peace, on paper lanterns and set them afloat on the river. This year Nozomi realizes that her mother always releases one lantern with no name. She begins to ask questions, and when complicated stories of loss and loneliness unfold, Nozomi and her friends come up with a creative way to share their loved ones' experiences. By opening people's eyes to the struggles they all keep hidden, the project teaches the entire community new ways to show compassion.

Soul Lanterns is an honest exploration of what happened on August 6, 1945, and offers readers a glimpse not only into the rich cultural history of Japan but also into the intimate lives of those who recognize--better than most--the urgent need for peace.

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School Library Journal

Gr 5-8—Even though the bombing of Hiroshima happened 25 years ago, 12-year-old Nozomi is discovering that the trauma of that day still lingers. At the annual Lantern Floating Ceremony to remember those who were killed, an older woman seemingly mistakes Nozomi for her mother. This puzzling encounter prompts Nozomi to wonder about her mother's possible ties to the stranger. Shortly after, Nozomi's art teacher becomes seriously ill and leaves school to convalesce. These situations lead to Nozomi and her friends' increasing awareness of the long-term emotional and physical effects of the bombing. They dedicate their upcoming art club project to learning more about the experiences of their families and neighbors on that fateful day. Subsequent chapters focus on individual narratives told by survivors about losing loved ones during the bombing. These are devastating accounts, full of sorrow for lives cut short and regret at words unspoken. Opening up about their loss and sharing their stories are cathartic for the survivors, unveiling new layers of understanding and compassion from the young listeners. Told with sincerity and respect, this moving work honors the past while emphasizing a message of peace for the future. VERDICT This gut-wrenching tale of the Hiroshima bombing from a Japanese perspective is a tender and honest exploration of empathy in the aftermath of unimaginable pain and grief.—Sophie Kenney, Aurora P.L., IL

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Shaw Kuzki
About the Author:
Born in Hiroshima, SHAW KUZKI is a second generation A-bomb survivor. She received her MA from Sophia University and is the author of a number of books in Japan. Shaw Kuzki lives in Kamakura, Japan. Soul Lanterns is her first novel translated for U.S. readers.

About the Translator:
Emily Balistrieri was born in Wisconsin, currently lives in Tokyo, and has translated several works including graphic novels as well as general fiction for young readers.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
March 20, 2021
Age Range
From 10 years

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