104 pages 3 hours read

Alan Gratz


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2018

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Historical Context: The Battle of Okinawa

The Battle of Okinawa, the final battle of World War II, began on April 1, 1945, when the US invaded the Japanese island of Okinawa, the largest island in the East China Sea. It finally concluded over three months later on June 22, 1945. It is now considered one of the bloodiest and most brutal battles of World War II. Fighting took the form of aerial bombing, as well as close-quarters fighting in the island’s caves, villages, and forests. An estimated 240,000 people died during The Battle of Okinawa, including Japanese soldiers and conscripted Okinawans, American forces stationed on the island and on American ships in the bay, and Okinawan civilians (Givens, A. “Okinawa: The Costs of Victory.” The National WWII Museum, 2022). The novel doesn’t shy away from giving readers glimpses of this enormous death toll, describing most memorably the mass of children’s bodies in Kimiko’s high school that Hideki must hide in to avoid capture by US soldiers.

The Imperial Japanese Army adopted a policy of non-surrender; to encourage civilians to die rather than surrender, the government produced propaganda that depicted American soldiers as brutal monsters. Nakahodo, an Okinawan who was a child when the battle took place, remembers being taught, “The Americans were monsters and beasts, and not humans.