Peace Is a Chain Reaction by Tanya Lee Stone

Peace is a Chain Reaction: How WWII Japanese Balloon Bombs Brought People of Two Nations Together by Tanya Lee Stone. Candlewick Press, 2022. 9780763676865

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  Stone manages to weave together one story we have heard about (Japanese-American incarceration) and two most of us haven’t: the development and use of balloon bombs by the Japanese during WWII and subsequent reconciliation efforts made by sociology professor Yuzuru Takeshita, who spent his teen years in a camp. Although there are several other historical and fictional treatments of these subjects, Stone focuses on the irony of Takeshita’s own imprisonment, in light of the role he would later play in peacemaking. The most fascinating part of the book for me, was the detailed accounts of how scientists developed the long-range balloon bombs (capable of crossing the Pacific Ocean) and their manufacture by young Japanese girls.  Stone has found rarely seen photographs of the process and detailed diagrams of these delicate-looking but deadly contraptions. The last third of the book focuses on the detonation of one bomb in Oregon, which killed a youth leader and 5 children. Takesita becomes instrumental in finding women who made the bombs and the surviving American family members. Through the exchange of letters, an eventual visit, and memorial ceremony, he facilitates healing for both the Japanese women and the American relatives. As always in Stone’s books, thoughtful framing of the questions, a matter-of-fact writing style, numerous headings and insets, source notes, a bibliography, and an index makes this book interesting, readable, and useful.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I did think there was an over-reliance on exclamation points to convey emotion. The book design is attractive, but as the images are vintage, they often look blurry or overexposed; a line or two of explanation about this would be helpful for 21st century students who take color and sharpness for granted. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Students or adults interested in this fascinating and overlooked event. Those who have enjoyed Stone’s books, especially her other WWII book Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles (2013) will want to read this one too.

Who should buy this book? Middle and high school libraries, public libraries

Where would you shelve it? 940.54

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: December 18, 2022

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Starred Review, *Young Adult, History, Japan, Japanese Internment, Tanya Lee Stone, World War II and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.