Read On!

Mrs. Farquharson’s musings about books for children and young adults

Reconciliation, Forgiveness, and Peace




One of the most significant events for the United States during the 1940s was the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor. The 1941 tragedy catapulted the United States into World War II, and it is chronicled in history books. However, there was one bombing on the mainland of the United States by Japan, and few Americans or Japanese know this part of history. Author, Marc Tyler Nobleman, and illustrator, Melissa Iwai, introduce this story in their picture book collaboration, Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot’s World War II Story (Clarion).

In September of 1942, Nobuo Fujita flew two bombing missions over Brookings, Oregon. His plane was catapulted off of a Japanese submarine that was cruising along the coast. Nobuo Fujita and his navigator dropped two bombs in the heavily wooded mountains of Oregon during each mission. The plan was that these would cause a massive forest fire that would spread to Oregonian towns and cities. Neither the first bombing flight nor the second, twenty days later, were successful, and few Americans heard about the mission. After the first bombing, there was a small fire that forest rangers put out. They thought that it was caused by lightning until they uncovered metal fragments with Japanese markings. The townsfolk in Brookings were concerned, but the U.S. government looked upon these as isolated incidents.

When the war ended, Nobuo returned to his family in Japan and opened a hardware store. Even though he never discussed his missions, the events weighed on him.

The residents of Brookings never forgot this piece of their town’s history, and in 1962, the Brookings Jaycees tracked down the Japanese bomber and invited him to their town. Not all residents were in favor of hosting a former enemy, but they were convinced that it would be a symbol of reconciliation. Nobuo arrived with his son and daughter to serve as his translators, and he apologized for his and his country’s actions. Years later, Nobuo paid for three Brookings high school students to visit him in Tokyo. He returned three more times to Brookings and was made an honorary citizen just before his death. Some of his ashes were sprinkled in the woods that he bombed.

Nobuo Fujita’s relationship with Brookings, Oregon became a symbol of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace. Readers of all ages should know this story.

(Photo credits: Wikipedia and Offbeat Oregon)

This video shows a display in Brookings and the bombing site:

The Atomic Bomb


There are some books that are beautiful and important, but it’s difficult to get them to the correct readers. The Secret Project (Beach Lane) falls into that category because it appears to be a picture book, yet it is about the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb. The mother and son team of Jeanette and Jonah Winter collaborated on this powerful book. Because it is non-fiction in a picture book format, older students who study the topic might not check it out. The challenge is for adults to share The Secret Project with the appropriate audience.

During WWII, when the Head of the Los Alamos Ranch School received a letter from the United States government, he was told to close the school because the land was being taken. The school was in an ideal location for the government to locate scientists who were working on a top-secret project. The area surrounding the elite boys’ school was chosen because of the desert location. The school’s buildings were used to house the scientists who came from all over the world. Workers who were brought in to cook, or clean, or guard had no idea what the nature of the work at “Site Y” involved.

When the first atomic bomb was tested in another desert area of southern New Mexico at the White Sands Missile Range, windows broke 120 miles away. The mushroom cloud was close to 7 miles high, and the world would never be the same.

The Winters handle this topic in sparse text and simple illustrations in The Secret Project. The Author’s Note in the back of the book gives many details about the project and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Anne Frank


This year is the 65th anniversary of the publication of the diary of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who perished in the Holocaust during World War II. It is also the 70th anniversary of The Diary of a Young Girl being translated into English. Otto Frank was given the diary in 1945 by Miep Gies, a family friend who aided them when they were in hiding from the Germans.

Annelies “Anne” Marie Frank has become one of the most identifiable victims of the unspeakable crimes that occurred during the war. Her words are timeless as they continue to resonate with young adults when they read them today. While her family was struggling to survive as a Jewish family in hiding in Amsterdam, Anne was going through her adolescence. She eloquently wrote about her daily frustrations, relationships, hopes, and dreams.

There have been many books written about Anne Frank as well. A Friend Called Anne (2004) by Jacqueline Van Maarsen and Memories of Anne Frank (1997) by Alison Leslie Gold are two remembrances by Anne’s childhood friends. Anne Frank, Beyond the Diary by Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven contains photographs, maps, and other historical information that is at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam.

Anne’s story is brought to life for our intermediate readers in Josephine Poole’s picture book biography, Anne Frank (2005). Angela Barrett’s illustrations reflect the poignancy of the story.

Menno Metselaar and Ruud van der Rol chose photographs from the archives of the Anne Frank House for their book, Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures (2009).

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