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The Blossom and the Firefly

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  607 ratings  ·  142 reviews
From the award-winning author of Flygirl comes this powerful WWII romance between two Japanese teens caught in the cogs of an unwinnable war, perfect for fans of Salt to the Sea , Lovely War , and Code Name Verity .

Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a kamikaze pilot in the days before his first and only mis
320 pages
Published February 18th 2020 by Penguin Teen
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Sophie_The_Jedi_Knight Hana is 15, Taro is 17. It sort of reads like romance, but I honestly think that it could read as just an intense bond between two people. There's not…moreHana is 15, Taro is 17. It sort of reads like romance, but I honestly think that it could read as just an intense bond between two people. There's nothing beyond kissing.(less)
Rachael F. I think the author worked really hard to accurately portray a group of people in WW2 that are often not learned or written about. The book creates a l…moreI think the author worked really hard to accurately portray a group of people in WW2 that are often not learned or written about. The book creates a lot of empathy for the young people living in Japan at the end of the war and is a beautiful story. (less)

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Average rating 3.89  · 
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Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If I was to sum this up in one word, that word would have to be the word stunning. A gloriously atmospheric, melancholic dive into a world we never see portrayed, the world of the women who cared for and loved the Japanese pilots as they set off to sacrifice themselves in war. This is the story of a pilot and a young high school student, their lives disrupted by a war not of their making, and their gradual realisation that small kindnesses have a lasting effect. That their short lives are to be ...more
Find this and other reviews at: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs...

Sherri L. Smith's The Blossom and the Firefly stood out the moment I saw it. I have always been a bit of a cover slut and was immediately drawn to the jacket art, but I am also a diehard fan of historical fiction and harbor a specific interest in novels that spotlight diverse perspectives. Long story short, I hooked before I had time to think and had trouble waiting for the audio to come through from my local library.

I menti
This was a very fascinating look at World War 2 from the Japanese perspective. I loved the writing, it felt like poetry at times. I really loved Taro's chapters as well, but I found Hana's to be a little lacking to be honest. I found the switching between first and third person to be a bit jarring as well, and the plot was....not really there, but I still loved the writing and the overall message of the story so much. I highly recommend this, and I feel like it's a hidden gem in the historical f ...more
Allison Keith
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a quiet, impactful story about two young, damaged souls who connect through music. Japan is embroiled in the Second World War. On an airbase in Chiran, young boys are trained to be kamikaze pilots, and young girls are brought to the base to wave and smile at the boys as they fly to their certain deaths, deaths they have been assured are honourable and glorious. Hana and Taro’s lives intersect at the base. This is a deeply emotional story about duty and honour, about the futility of war, ...more
bee ʚïɞ
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
two stars ∗ i’m sad to say that i didn’t love this as much as i hoped i would :( while i did enjoy learning more about an aspect of wwii that i was ignorant about, i just felt as if there wasn’t much of a plot to it. the writing was quite descriptive and dragged on a bit, and the switched between first person and third person pov was difficult to get used to. overall, this was a somewhat enjoyable read but just not for me, unfortunately. ∗
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful story. Well written. You can really tell the author did her research. Would reccomend it to teens and adults that like historical fiction!

I loved the history element so much but sadly didn’t connect as much with Hana’s chapters or the romance. Honestly felt more emotion towards Taro’s friendship and guilt/shame, which I wish was explored more.
Ms. Yingling
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
ARC provided by Follett First Look

Taro is born to a middle class family in Japan, and takes to the violin at a very early age. Hana is the daughter of tailors who live in Chiran, on Kyushu. Her father goes off to fight in the war, and her mother is left to carry on with the business. Taro ends up in flight training, like most young men his age in the early 1940s, and eventually ends up at an air base near Hana, destined to be a kamikaze, or tokko, pilot. Hana's school stops teaching, and after w
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-releases
Beautiful, tragic, and atmospheric. I really enjoyed this story, though I disagree with its comparison to Lovely War. This is less a romance than a view of Japan through the eyes of two teens who lived through the war.

Hana is a Nadisheko, young girls who worked as maids at the air base where the tokko or kamikaze pilots flew out for their missions. She detaches herself as best she can, knowing that these boys are going to their deaths.

Taro is a violinist, but with his country at war, he chooses
Nathan Bartos
*2.5 Stars
Read for my Library Materials for Young Adults class.
My biggest problem with this book is that I was simply bored. In fact, listening to the audio book, I think I fell asleep for maybe 5% of it, including the first time the POV characters met, and I didn't even care enough to go back, and I also don't really feel like I missed anything. This book could've used some major editing, and I think it could've been a great novella or similarly short novel. I also think it wrapped up just a li
Corey J. Boren
I love novels about civilian life during World War Two. However, I now realize there have been clear places where I’ve neglected to explore. Most of my reading has focused on the European aspects of the war, rather than the Asian ones. This book likely will change that for me.

A soaring, delicate novel, The Blossom and the Firefly is a beautiful and gripping view into the lives of the Japanese during this period. The novel oscillates between two points of view: the first is Hana, a member of the
I am in love with this book.

So often readers go on and on about how much they learn about the world by reading books. This is a true statement for all genres, but historical fiction especially... and this book will open many eyes.


If we read books to gain new perspectives, then reading books that give one culture a glimpse into another culture to shine a light on the conflicts that led to global conflicts, this is a must-read story.


I could see this book being taught in literature classes to tie
C.P. Cabaniss
"Because some moments can never have an after, no matter how much we want what might have been."

I don't think I've ever read a historical fiction novel about Japan, so I was very curious to see what this would be like. In many ways, it was quite beautiful. I liked the characters and the nonlinear aspect of the story structure. The writing was a little stilted for me and never drew me in or gave me the emotional connection with the characters that I'm always looking for.

An interesting look at
The LitBuzz
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.” -Pablo Casals
The Blossom and the Firefly is a poignant story about two young lives that are swept up in the turmoil of WWII in Japan. Sherri L. Smith creates such a beautiful tale, both elegantly written and executed, it will no doubt become a timeless classic for any age.

I was swept away by Sherri L. Smith. The Blossom and the Firefly gives a voice to two young adults on the other side of the ocean during the lead-up and t
Lisa Mandina
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was definitely intrigued by the historical aspect of this that is not often found in YA books, at least not that I’ve noticed. At first the jumping from character to character and going back in time for Taro’s part of the story kept me flipping back to figure out where I was, but I soon understood and was able to dive into the story. I was also lucky that we ended up with a snow day the week I chose to read this, because I got to spend my snow day reading and finishing the story.

There was so m
Aug 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Releases in February of 2020, I have read an advance reader copy from the publisher. I requested the ARC after hearing so much about this YA book. My first read by author Sherri Smith, it won’t be my last. Exceptional research, story and character development. Set in Japan 1945. Taro is a talented violinist and a body-crash (kamikaze) pilot. Hana was almost killed in a bomb raid. They both believe they are meant to die. Then they find each other. Amazing storytelling.
Dec 03, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
At no point was i invested in any way in the lives of the characters in this book. I kept plugging away thinking, surely the lives of young adults in WWII Japan will result in something intriguing. In the very least, something will tug at my humanity. NOPE. I'm shocked by the 3.81 rating. ...more
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning. Get the tissues ready for this one.
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Blossom and the Firefly is set in Japan in 1945. It follows two characters, Hana and Taro. Hana has not been the same since she was buried alive in a trench after a bombing. But her and her friends have a duty as Nadeshiko, teenage girls who were sent to the airbase in Chiran to be the final faces and wave off the tokkō pilots of the Japanese Air Force. Taro is a tokkō, a pilot whose only mission is to crash his plane into the enemy ships. When the two meet, they realize that there is more t ...more
Sandy Brehl
This is a compelling and important story, but the first and most important thing I'd say about it is that the author's mastery of language and storytelling can serve as mentor text for young writers and successfully published ones. When I am immersed in a story that keeps me turning pages, but notice incredible turns of phrase or powerful story-structuring, I simply read on and return later to examine the craft elements. In this case, I could not. There were multiple places in which I paused and ...more
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haunting. Lyrical. Sad.

This book has sat on my TBR for far too long and is one of the most beautiful historical fictions I have read in a long time. The weight of this story is extremely heavy and depressing, so if your heart can handle it, it's an absolute must read. It also didn't get the attention it deserved when it first came out last year.

Smith absolutely did her research! I didn't even realize how extensively she dove into history until the Author's Note at the end. Many of the side char
Received advanced reader copy from publisher via Baker & Taylor book supplier

Taro is a talented violinist but his father continually tells him that Japan needs pilots not musicians. So, Taro enlists in the military, trains to be a pilot, and prepares himself to die for his country. Hana hasn’t been the same since her friends pulled her from a trench after she was buried alive during a bombing. Then, as she serves at the local air base, sending pilots to the sky with bows and cherry blossoms, sh
Viktoria Cox
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is written from the Japanese perspective of World War 2. It was interesting to read a different view that what I normally read of World War 2. It seems like the authors research was thorough. The Japanese customs presented throughout seem made the story seem authentic.

The jumping around in time confused me. I did not read the book in one sitting, so I had to often go back and remind myself where the setting was in time. Hana never aged, but I followed Taro through a lot of his life. I u
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story really gave me a new perspective on history. I appreciate the extensive research of the author. Learning that this story was impacted by the actual journals of students, teachers, and pilots is powerful. This book is an excellent example of how historical fiction can bring new life and new audiences to the lessons from history.
The style of writing was unique. The detailed descriptions were poetic and reminded me of Japanese Poetry. In the end I appreciated this added detail.
I don't n
Dec 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed learning about this part of WWII - the students who were taken from school to care for the soldiers and the kamikaze pilots. I'll be adding this to the recommended reading with my Pacific War units! One super unique idea that was strange but really worked was the shift in narration styles - Hana's chapters were generally first person while Taro's chapters were 3rd omniscient, and it created a very interesting dynamic and added to the multiple narrator storytelling that I've neve ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tla_tl_2021
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Glitter Sherlocked
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's definitely the best book I've read this year ...more
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 sweet story. Not enough for these times.
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
An unusual WWII love story, told entirely from the Japanese point of view about a Japanese school girl and a boy preparing to honorably fly to his death as a tokko, or kamikaze, pilot. Beautiful spare writing mirrors Japanese modesty and tradition. This haunting story will stay with you.
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book reads like a lyrical poem. The story is touching and thoughtfully written by a talented storyteller. I had not heard about the Nadeshiko girls of Chiran before this book, and Ms Smith brings it to light and life with beautiful prose.
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Sherri L. Smith is the award-winning author of YA novels LUCY THE GIANT, SPARROW, HOT SOUR SALTY SWEET, FLYGIRL and ORLEANS. In October 2015, she makes her middle grade debut with THE TOYMAKER’S APPRENTICE from G.P. Putnam and Sons for Penguin Random House.

Sherri has worked in film, animation, comic books and construction. Her books have been listed as Amelia Bloomer, American Library Association

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