The Peace Tree from Hiroshima: The Little Bonsai with a Big Story by Sandra Moore, illustrated by Kazumi Wilds
Four centuries ago, in a forest on the Japanese island of Miyajima, a tree “pushed up through the dirt.” Still a small sapling, the tree was “carefully dug” by a visitor named Itaro who wanted to take home a “‘souvenir of this island, of the trees that touched [his] heart.'” Itaro named the tree after this “magical island,” and nurtured Miyajima lovingly for 50 years, “shaping [it] like a sculptor into a miniature bonsai tree.”
Precious and pampered, Miyajima was passed on for generations from father to son. Then in 1945, tragedy struck Japan: the atomic bomb ended war, but the explosion detonated just two miles from Miyajima’s home. Amidst the horrific devastation, Miyajima’s family miraculously survived.
Three decades later, Miyajima’s latest caretaker, Masaru, received a request: “‘America is having a special celebration, for its two-hundredth birthday,’” he explained to the beloved tree. “‘The Japanese people will send a collection of bonsai trees as a gift.’” After much heartfelt consideration, Masaru chose Miyajima: “… you have seen the sadness created by war between Japan and America. You have felt the hope that helped us rebuild. … I hope you will understand if [I] ask you, my favorite white pine, to become a tree of peace.’”
And so the journey begins for Miyajima to the other side of the world …
Fairy tale-sounding this may seem, but the ending “Author’s Note” will reveal just how true this inspiring story actually is. A first book for journalist Sandra Moore, Peace Tree couldn’t be a better choice to begin an authorly career. Artist Kazumi Wilds, herself a Japanese transplant to America according to her back flap bio, provides thoughtfully detailed, complementary context to Moore’s touching text – a macaque mother and baby safe in the forest, morning glory blossom vines climbing up behind a father and son at work, juxtaposed against the blackness of the explosion to come, the still-rubbled buildings even decades after recovery, and more. The result of many hands – much like Miyajima the Peace Tree – the book is proof and testimony to the restorative effects of attentive caring, and the redemptive powers of nurturing peace.
When I finally get back home to DC, I’m planning on making a beeline to the National Arboretum. Now that I’ve read its ‘big story,’ I have a quite the historic, influential tree to get to know trunk-to-face! Who wants to join me?