Lois Lowry, a giant in children’s literature, rises to even greater heights with “On the Horizon,” a compact novel in verse.
Her style is simple yet poignant, beginning with the fateful day she was 3, playing on the beach at Waikiki, and the USS Arizona passed by. It was Dec. 7, 1941, shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Lowry was too young to understand the tragic event about to unfold. Years later, while watching an old home movie her father made, she realized the ship “shrouded in the mist” was the Arizona, one of the ships sunk at Pearl Harbor, leading to the loss of 1,177 men.
This achingly beautiful book describes some who lost their lives. Thirty-seven sets of brothers were onboard, including one set of twins, Jake and John, “ . . . one would die, and one live on.” Navy Band Unit 22 was on the ship too, all 21 of them perished, “ . . . now, with their instruments lay twisted.”
In the second section, “Another Horizon,” Lowry lays bare the horror of Hiroshima, Aug. 6, 1945. She describes the mushroom cloud, the deadly “black rain,” relating stories of Japanese who perished, and those who later suffered the effects of the radiation.
The final section, “Beyond the Horizon” brings the book full circle recalling an uncanny happenstance Lowry had with Koichi Seii, a Japanese boy she saw in a schoolyard after her family moved to Tokyo after the war.
The two couldn’t have imagined they’d see each other again in 1994 at a library convention in Miami where they discovered they’re the same age and had lived in the same area of Tokyo. In 1945, Seii’s family fled to America, where he became a celebrated children’s book illustrator, renaming himself Alan Say.
“On the Horizon” presents two vastly different cultures, laying bare the heartbreak and sacrifices each suffered — our shared humanity its timely, powerful message.
This is a stunning book. Though intended for 9- to 12-year-olds, its appeal is boundless.