Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 22, 2017

BOOK GIVEAWAY: THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM

Congratulations to author Kathleen Burkinshaw on her new book THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM. She has agreed to participate in our book giveaways. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you did to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Check back to discover the winner.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Following the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, this is a new, very personal story to join Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and since the Japanese newspapers don’t report lost battles, the Japanese people are not entirely certain of where Japan stands. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bombs hit Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.

BOOK’S JOURNEY:

The Question That Began My Journey of The Last Cherry Blossom

I always enjoyed writing from the time I was old enough to write little poems for my home-made holiday cards. In school, I loved researching for reports, and blue book exams (Yes, I was one of those people).  But my college years and my career after college didn’t involve creative writing.

But, when my daughter was four-years-old I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a neurological, progressive, chronic pain disorder of the sympathetic nervous system. I had spent quite a bit of time in hospitals and my career as a health care executive ended. I returned to creative writing to write stories for my daughter and deal with this sudden life change.

However, The Last Cherry Blossom(TLCB) journey wouldn’t begin until nine years later when my daughter was in seventh grade.  She told me that her class would be ending their chapter on WWII that week, and she overheard some students saying they couldn’t wait to see that ‘cool picture of the mushroom cloud’. This is where the question came in- she asked me if I would talk to her class about the people under the famous mushroom cloud, people like her grandmother.

When I was younger, my mother told me about losing her family and home in Hiroshima.  But she had not given me any specific details of this event, because the memories were still too painful for her to discuss.

After my daughter’s request, my mother bravely decided she was ready to tell me more of what happened on the most horrific day of her life.  She hoped by sharing her experience with students who were around the same age she was at the time (12-years-old), they might relate to her story. As future voters, they’d realize that the use of nuclear weapons against any country or people, for any reason, is unacceptable.

The following year I was invited back and began presenting to other schools. Teachers began to include my presentation in their history curriculum and asked if there would be a book.

I had begun writing about the life of a 12-year-old girl in Hiroshima during the last year of WWII, based on events in my mother’s life.  I began what would turn into many, many hours researching what life was like in Hiroshima during WWII, as well as interviewing my mother. I wanted to give readers new insight into how the Japanese children lived during the war, the culture, and mindset.

I attended Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators annual conferences since they were in the same city I lived in. In 2012, I submitted 20 pages for a critique with agent Anna Olswanger.  I wasn’t offered representation, but she gave me meticulous advice and suggestions.  Four months later I asked if she might read my revised version. We did many revisions over the next 7 months. But in September 2013, she offered me representation. Three months later she began submitting my manuscript. In November of 2014 I was offered a contract from Sky Pony Press!

It was bittersweet because my mother passed away two months later. However, she did get to see the contract and knew the book would be published. I’m grateful that she also had a chance to read one of the drafts of The Last Cherry Blossom.

That summer of 2015, my family visited Hiroshima to honor my mother at the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims. Standing on the same ground where she experienced so much loss and destruction when she was only twelve-years-old, broke my heart.

I then had to throw myself into the first round of revisions with my editor. Throughout this process, I had to deal not only with grief, but with pain flare ups.  If it wasn’t for my husband, daughter, and friends’ help and encouragement I could not have made this journey.

There were many days when I felt that I couldn’t write a tweet, let alone a novel. But the thought of my mother’s strength to endure all she had lost on August 6th, and still have so much love in her heart for my daughter and me; then I could create through my pain and write her story.

I hope that TLCB not only conveys the message that nuclear weapons should never be used again; but also reveals that the children in Japan had the same love for family, fear of what could happen to them, and hopes for peace as the Allied children had. I want the students to walk away knowing that the ones we may think are our “enemy” are not always so different from ourselves. A message that needs to be heard now more than ever.

KATHLEEN’S BIO:

Kathleen Burkinshaw is a Japanese American author residing in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom to a daughter in college, and owns a dog who is a kitchen ninja.  Kathleen enjoyed a 10+ year career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain. She has presented her mother’s experience in Hiroshima to middle schools for the past 6 years. She has carried her mother’s story in her heart and feels privileged to now share it with the world. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything. The Last Cherry Blossom, is a SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist (southeast region) and 2016 Scholastic WNDB Reading Club selection.

Thank you Kathleen for sharing your book and journey with us. It looks like a “must read” book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. This book sounds so fascinating! Can’t wait to read. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would love to read this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful story! And thank you for the chance to win a copy of the book. I tweeted about this giveaway!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I well remember both the beginning and the end of WWII. I remember, as well, being in grade school with a boy who was my Japanese friend, and oh the confusion for all of us children. I would love to read this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This would be a perfect addition to a unit taught to 3rd graders each spring about Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes! I’ve shared the post with other teachers and the librarian.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’m honored that you would want the students to read. But some description of the day itself might be too much. I didn’t write it as overly graphic but at same time, needed to be realistic. The earliest classes that have read it were 5th graders. I just wanted to let you know. But I hope you read it and enjoy it😊

      Like

  6. I always appreciate it when an author takes the time to research the historical period and give an accurate sense of what life was really like. I also appreciate authors who choose to tell the other side, the people enduring the “losing side” of an event where history declares a “winner.” I applaud Kathleen Burkinshaw’s drive to do both, especially in the face of personal pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. That is so nice of you to say that😊

      Like

  7. What an amazing account of persistence, strength and courage. This is, indeed, a message for any time, and especially for today.
    A must read for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much. I hope you enjoy it.😊

      Like

  8. OK, first—what a cover!!!

    Kathleen, knowing the inspiration for this book–that alone is enough to want to read it. I’m glad your mother was able to read a first draft and know the story would be told! And I empathize with your health issues, dealing with chronic problems myself :-\ I’m glad for you that you’ve been able to accomplish so much! Good luck with your debut novel 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much! The talented Katy Betz did the stunning cover art. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it! Thank you for your kind wishes. I hope that you have many low pain days ahead😊

      Like

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. What a gift you have to give! I hope you are looking into alternative medicine and diet .for answers to your pain issues. Will share on facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words 😊

      Like

  10. What an important story to share. Thank you, Kathleen, for having the strength to write it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I adore Historical Fiction and this sounds like an amazing book! I’d love a copy. Tweeted and posted to FB.

    Like

    • Darlene, Thank you so much 🙂

      Like

  12. Not only do I want to read this but one of my closest friends is Japanese America and I know she will absolutely love this account inspired by your mom. Thank you for writing it!

    Like

  13. This sounds like an amazing read!

    Like


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