104 pages 3 hours read

Alan Gratz


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2018

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Character Analysis

Hideki Kaneshiro

Thirteen-year-old Hideki graduates from school to join the Blood and Iron Student Corps of Okinawan child soldiers just before the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. The children are given two grenades, one to kill Americans, and the other to kill themselves. Inspired by the example of the kamikaze pilots, who sacrifice their lives for their country, Hideki hopes to bring pride and honor to his family, Okinawa, Japan, and Emperor Hirohito. However, he is fearful that he will not have the courage to do so, since he believes himself to be cursed by the mabui, or spirit, of his cowardly ancestor Shigemoto, an Okinawan farmer who capitulated to Japanese samurai when Japan took control of Okinawa.

Hideki’s experience of the battle is full of horror: He sees a friend blow himself up with his own grenade, a classroom full of massacred children, and countless bodies of soldiers and civilians blown up by bombs and shot to death. Once Hideki rejects the idea of being soldiers, he adopts a new mission: His dying father begs him to find his sister, Kimiko, the only remaining member of their family. As Hideki travels south through Okinawa, he kills an American soldier with his first grenade.