The National Book Foundation announced the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature Longlist on Monday, and Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson was one of the 10 titles selected. Other titles named to the Longlist include Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightengale and Kwame Alexander’s Booked.
The Finalists will be announced on October 13, and the medalists for all of the National Book Award categories (fiction, poetry, nonfiction, young people’s literature) will be announced at a ceremony on November 15.
Caren had just returned from a two-week trip to England on Saturday, September 10. So when Caren’s editor, Carol Hinz, called her on Monday morning before 9 am, Caren says, “I was still a little foggy from the jet lag.”
Carol asked if Caren was sitting down.
“That’s a little ominous,” Caren said.
Carol told her that Sachiko was on the Longlist, in the company of books by Meg Medina, Nicola Yoon, and other notable authors in the world of children’s literature. Caren didn’t know what she was saying. “The second or third time Carol repeated herself, it finally hit me. I was completely tongue-tied.”
Sachiko tells the story of Sachiko Yasui, who was six years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Sachiko survived, and in the book Caren chronicles Sachiko’s trauma and loss as well as her long journey to find peace.
In the process of researching Sachiko, Caren traveled to Japan five times to visit Sachiko. She is planning to go again in January 2017 to celebrate the publication of the book with Sachiko and members of her community.
Caren is still a bit in shock about the news, but she is grateful for the wider audience that Sachiko will reach because of the Longlist. “Given the state of the world, we need Sachiko’s story more than ever to remind us of the importance of peace,” Caren said.
For more on Caren’s research and writing process, you can read a Q&A with her or read her “Return of the Sword” guest post on the Lerner Books blog. Editor Carol Hinz also documented the process of making the manuscript into a book in her “The Book that Took a Village” blog post.
Sachiko will be published on October 1, and the launch party will be held at Common Good Books on Wednesday, October 19, at 7 pm.