Running with Cosmos Flowers: The Children of Hiroshima
In the wake of the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II, the congregation of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, DC, sent school supplies to the students of Hiroshima’s Honkawa Elementary School. In gratitude, the students sent back drawings-created with their new supplies-of their lives in the devastated city. These remarkable images depicted scenes of play and joy. The delicate cosmos flower, which grew and bloomed in spite of the radioactive soil, was a symbol of hope echoed in the students’ drawings. Discovered and restored decades later, these images stand as a testament to the resilience and beauty of the human spirit. This fictionalized account begins with the rediscovery of these pictures. It is drawn from interviews with the students and teachers of Honkawa Elementary School, as well as from author Shizumi Shigeto Manale’s mother’s personal recollections. Filled with sincerity and hope, this harrowing tale is told through the voice of Hanako, a young girl whose life is abruptly shattered. Readers will experience with terrifying clarity the catastrophic effects of human destructiveness and the indomitability of the will.
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A Sensitive Account of Hiroshima, a good read for grades 8 and up
The delicacy of the cosmos flower calls to mind the increased fragility and preciousness of life after the bombing of Hiroshima. Sprouting from the bombed debris, the flower symbolizes resilience.
Written from a child’s perspective, Running with Cosmos Flowers amalgamates the stories of survivors interviewed by Shizumi, one of the authors, who was born in Hiroshima several years after World War II. Descriptive passages of both losses and love transmit an intimate snapshot of Japanese character and values. Carefully researched and with some archival photos and drawings, the book includes many non-fictional accounts. For example, the story’s inclusion of references to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Center, mention of interactions with the American soldiers in the compound, specific hibakushas’ experiences, and the gifts from a Washington, D.C. church. While the book’s topic is heavy, relating horrible things, in it there is acknowledgement of good will efforts on the part of the U.S. and of the appreciation and hope for peace on the part of the Japanese.
Running with Cosmos Flowers could be introduced to 7th or 8th grade students, but I put it on the 10th grade reading list because students their study of World History gave them sufficient historical background for full appreciation of the book’s content.
Supplementing the book, Shizumi also produced an award-winning documentary film Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard about Hiroshima’s children’s drawings sent to All Soul’s Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C. The film is available on Amazon.