Book Review: The Last Paper Crane by Kerry Drewery

Publication Date

April 2020


Historical Fiction, Fiction

Star Rating



One thousand paper cranes to achieve your heart’s desire.

1945, Hiroshima: Ichiro is a teenage boy relaxing at home with his friend Hiro. Moments later there is a blinding flash as the horrific nuclear bomb is dropped. With great bravery the two boys find Hiro’s five year-old sister Keiko in the devastated and blasted landscape. With Hiro succumbing to his wounds, Ichiro is now the only one who can take care of Keiko. But in the chaos Ichiro loses her when he sets off to find help.

Seventy years later, the loss of Keiko and his broken promise to his dying friend are haunting the old man’s fading years. Mizuki, his granddaughter, is determined to help him. As the Japanese legend goes, if you have the patience to fold 1,000 paper cranes, you will find your heart’s desire; and it turns out her grandfather has only one more origami crane to fold…

Narrated in a compelling mix of straight straight narrative, free verse and haiku poems, this is a haunting and powerful novel of courage and survival, with full-page illustrations by Natsuko Seki.

Photo from @whiskandmaps. There you’ll find a brilliant tutorial on how to make paper cranes for yourself.

“My father, he… read all the time, and he… told me there is… magic in books.’ I close the book, place the loose page on top and, with shaking hands, start to fold. ‘I’m going to go… get help, but… I’m going to leave a bit of magic here.”

Wow. I don’t know if I can write a review that will do this justice, but I’ll try to find the words.

The Last Paper Crane starts with Mizuku, a young girl who is desperate to help her grandfather, Ichiro. He used to believe that there was magic in books, but since his wife died, he has lost his faith. To find out why though, we have to journey with him to 1945, when the nuclear bomb hit Hiroshima and his life changed forever.

We follow his story immediately after the bomb dropped. We travel with him and friend Hiro through the streets of Hiroshima. We see the damage and the destruction clearly through Drewerys writing. We can practically feel the heat of the flames leaping from the pages.

I don’t want to give to much of the plot away, because I really do feel like this is a book you have to experience for yourself. I do need to explain though, that there is a point in the book that Ichiro loses someone, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I felt his pain in my heart. And I felt his guilt. And shame. And regret. And it was all the more heartbreaking to me, as the reader, understanding that he didn’t deserve any of it. At just 40%, I was so emotional, I was already close to tears. By 90%, I was a complete, blubbering mess.

The final scene, in particular, is a masterpiece of conveying emotion. No words are spoken. Drewery understands that no words are needed. Just a few small actions was all it took to end this book in the most spectacular way.

The flashbacks are written in quiet simplistic prose, but heart wrenching never the less. The present scenes are told in more of a poetic style. I would have preferred the whole book to have been in the more classic writing style, and this is the only reason I have rated it 4.5 stars, and not 5. It’s a beautiful book, and well worth a few hours of anyones time.

*Thank you to Hot Key Books and to Netgalley for giving me a an E-copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.*

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