Friday, October 19, 2018


Gratz, Alan. Grenade.
October 9th 2018 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Hideki is about to graduate from his school when the American ships appear outside of Okinawa. He and his classmates are each given two hand grenades, and told to kill as many Americans as they can with the first one and kill themselves with the second. Hideki has already been separated from his family, who have been evacuated to mainland Japan. He sets off across the island and is not quite sure what to do, other than to try to survive. At the say time, Ray, an American soldier, lands on the island. He has been taught some rudimentary phrases and has been instructed to try to save the native Okinawans, although his fellow soldiers feel that you can't necessarily tell them from the Japanese and have an alarming tendency to strafe anyone they come across. Ray is not happy, but feels he has no other course of action. To cope, he starts to take pictures from the wallets of the men he has killed, saving them in his rucksack. The island is a hell hole of killing and destruction, with atrocities being committed by just about everyone. Hideki does find his father at their family tomb, but he passes away after telling him to find his sister Kimiko. Eventually, Ray and Hideki run into each other,with grave consequences for both young men.
Strengths: Gratz has these history books down to a science, not that any two are the same or in any way formulaic. There are interesting and engaging characters, tense and exciting situations, lots of information about the events, and a fast-moving plot. I especially appreciated that both sides had good and bad characters; well, the Japanese were not discussed quite as much, so they didn't come out looking very good, since they rather threw Okinawa under the bus. I didn't know much about Okinawa, and there were lots of interesting details, like the hajichi (Okinawan tattoos). I'm thinking that Scholastic should do a boxed set of these titles for book fairs-- the covers look great together.
Weaknesses: It would be preferable to see an #ownvoices account of WWII from a Japanese perspective, but until I can find those, I am grateful to have books that try to portray a non-US view.
What I really think: Like Graham Salisbury (The Hunt for the Bamboo Rat), Gratz does a great job at researching a variety of tense situations and writing about them in a way that is interesting but also does not glorify war. Definitely purchasing.
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I will definitely look up this one and the Graham Salisbury book. Thanks for letting me know! BTW, speaking of this time period, have you read Raid of No Return, the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales graphic novel about Jimmy Doolittle's bombing of Tokyo early in WWII? A remarkable book and your kids will love it.