Caren Stelson



for all

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story


writ­ten by Caren Stelson

Carolrhoda Books

ISBN 978–1467789035, grades 5–12

Sachiko Yasui 1938–2022

I am sad to share the news that my dear friend Sachiko Yasui passed away in September 2022 after a long strug­gle with the effects of a stroke. Knowing Sachiko and her sto­ry changed my life. Philosopher Martin Buber said, “All real liv­ing is meet­ing.” I tru­ly met Sachiko and learned how a per­son can face the cat­a­clysmic vio­lence of war and trans­form that trau­ma into love. The force of that love not only changes the per­son, but changes others—and that is what changes the world. Sachiko Yasui’s spir­it inhab­its the pages of the book we worked on togeth­er and in each per­son who reads her sto­ry. (Caren Stelson)

This strik­ing work of nar­ra­tive non­fic­tion tells the true sto­ry of six-year-old Sachiko Yasui’s sur­vival of the Nagasaki atom­ic bomb on August 9, 1945, and the heart­break­ing and life­long after­math. Having con­duct­ed exten­sive inter­views with Sachiko Yasui, Caren Stelson chron­i­cles Sachiko’s long jour­ney toward peace. This spe­cial book offers read­ers a remark­able new per­spec­tive on the final moments of World War II, the fifty years that fol­lowed, and the courage it took for one woman to tell her sto­ry of nuclear war and peace.


2017 Robert F. Sibert Honor Award for Information Books, ALSC

2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year List

2017 Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award

2017 Notable Children’s Books, ALSC

2017–2018 ALA-CBC Reading Beyond List

2016 American Library Association Notable Book

2017 Booklist Top 10 Diverse Nonfiction for Youth

2017 CCBC Choices

2016 Cybils Award for Middle Grade Non-Fiction

2016 Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Award

2017 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for books for old­er children

2017 Minnesota Book Award final­ist, Middle Grade Literature

2016 Junior Library Guild selection

2016 National Book Award Longlist, Young People’s Literature

2016 National Consortium for Teaching About Asia, Freeman Book Award,

Honorable Mention, Young Adult/High School Literature

2016 Nerdies: Long-Form Nonfiction

2016 New York Public Library Best Books for Teens

2017 Notable Books for a Global Society

2017 Notable Social Studies Trade Books, NCSS, CBC

2017 Orbis Pictus Award for Nonfiction, Recommended Book, NCT

An inter­view with Caren Stelson


Sachiko Discussion and Activity Guide

Telling Her Story: 60 New Books for Women’s History Month” (A Mighty Girl)

Disarming Hearts and Minds,” George E. Griener, Pierre Thompson, and Elizabeth Weinberg, Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 32:303–312, 2020

“ ‘Oppenheimer’-Related Reading for Students,” School Library Journal, 17 August 2023

Behind the Book

Book View Now inter­view at the Miami Book Fair

Mackin VIA Community inter­view, “A Passion for Promoting Peace

Publishers Weekly inter­view with Claire Kirch

Publishers Weekly, “The Lifesaving Power of the Arts

School Library Journal, “It’s Awards Season at Bank Street College

St. Paul Neighborhood Network, inter­viewed by Catherine Day

Talks with Roger, The Horn Book, iin­ter­viewed by Roger Sutton

Teaching Books, Meet-the-Author of Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

Virginia Festival of the Book pan­el dis­cus­sion:
Nuclear War: Survivors, Resistors, and Current Peril


Booklist, starred review

As Fat Man hurled toward the city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, Sachiko Yasui, 6, was play­ing house. She ducked for cov­er, awak­ing hours lat­er just “half a mile from the [bomb’s] hypocen­ter,”, buried beneath moun­tains of debris, her mouth clogged with ash. Stelson first heard Sachiko speak in August of 2005. From 2010–15, Stelson trav­eled to and from Nagasaki, con­duct­ing a series of five inter­views with the sin­gu­lar Sachiko. The result is a sto­ry of stag­ger­ing hard­ship and extra­or­di­nary resolve. In it, Stelson out­lines the plight of Sachiko, her fam­i­ly, and oth­er hibakusha (“explosion-affected peo­ple”), from the Yasui’s’ lengthy trek to safe­ty in near­by Shimabara and dec­i­mat­ing radi­a­tion sick­ness, to the gru­el­ing restora­tion of a bar­ren city. The nar­ra­tive is fur­ther sup­ple­ment­ed by two-page edu­ca­tion­al tid­bits, inter­spersed through­out. Here, Stelson address­es the Japanese gov­ern­ment, Emperor Hirohito and prime min­is­ter Hideko Tojo, intern­ment camps, the U.S.’s sti­fling occu­pa­tion of Japan, and “long-term effects of radi­a­tion.” With Sachiko for­ev­er in the fore­ground, read­ers learn of her griev­ous loss, devo­tion to edu­ca­tion, regard for peace (and its devo­tees: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Helen Keller), and her fair­ly recent deci­sion to give voice to her expe­ri­ences. Sachiko and her sto­ry, much like the resilient Nagasaki cam­phor trees she so admires, are an indeli­ble force. Luminous, endur­ing, utter­ly nec­es­sary. —Briana Shemroske

School Library Journal, starred review

Gr 5–8–Sachiko Yasui was just six years old when the atom­ic bomb was dropped on her home­town of Nagasaki. On August 9, 1945, she went from play­ing house with her friends to bury­ing them. Yasui also lost a broth­er that day and would lose many more fam­i­ly mem­bers because of radi­a­tion sick­ness. Growing up, she was ostra­cized for her sta­tus as hibakusha, a bomb sur­vivor. Despite her trau­ma and the bul­ly­ing she faced, Yasui endured. She sought out inspi­ra­tion from the likes of Helen Keller, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Their works allowed her to make peace with the events in her life. Stelson recounts hear­ing Yasui speak at a cer­e­mo­ny to com­mem­o­rate the 60th anniver­sary of the bomb­ing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This event would spark a long and inti­mate process in which Stelson repeat­ed­ly met with and inter­viewed Yasui in order to tell her sto­ry. Frequent his­tor­i­cal notes pro­vide con­text to the events hap­pen­ing in the nar­ra­tive: Japan’s role in World War II, the issue of racism in the war, President Truman’s ulti­ma­tum, the effects of radi­a­tion sick­ness, the U.S. occu­pa­tion of Japan after the war, and more. Back mat­ter includes a glos­sary of Japanese terms used in the book and detailed maps of where events took place. VERDICT This sen­si­tive and well-crafted account of a Nagasaki bomb sur­vivor is an essen­tial addi­tion to World War II biog­ra­phy col­lec­tions for mid­dle school stu­dents. —Deidre Winterhalter, Niles Public Library, IL

School Library Journal, reviewing the audio book, starred review

Chapters that recount the sto­ry of her life alter­nate with chap­ters of his­tor­i­cal overview and facts. This is one of the many out­stand­ing aspects of this book. In the audio ver­sion, these chap­ters are read by two dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tors, Katherine Fenton and John Chancer. The vocal dif­fer­ences among the char­ac­ters are com­pelling, and Fenton does a superb job with the Japanese pronunciation.

New York Times (full review)

Caren Stelson met Sachiko Yasui in Minneapolis in 2005 and made five trips to Japan to inter­view her. While the book con­tains his­tor­i­cal notes, infor­ma­tion­al side­bars, pho­tographs and maps, most of the nar­ra­tive is Sachiko’s account, mag­net­ic and chill­ing in its sim­plic­i­ty. Stelson lets Sachiko become the hero of her own sto­ry; her qui­et sur­vival is an inspir­ing tra­jec­to­ry of redemp­tion. —Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author of The War That Saved My Life

Minneapolis Star Tribune (full review)

The story’s first-person account and deep sense of human­i­ty offer young read­ers a chance to grap­ple with the hard truths of war. —Trisha Collopy

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story

Sachiko: A Nagasaki
Bomb Survivor’s Story

writ­ten by Caren Stelson

Carolrhoda Books

ISBN 978–1467789035, grades 5–12