A Bowl of Peace: A True Story

A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story

By Caren Stelson, Illustrated by Akira Kusaka (Carolrhoda Books)
  • Non-fiction
  • Set in Japan

Keywords: Nagasaki, biography, war, family, death

In this deeply moving nonfiction picture book, award-winning author Caren Stelson brings Sachiko Yasui’s story of surviving the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and her message of peace to a young audience.

Sachiko’s family home was about half a mile from where the atomic bomb fell on August 9, 1945. Her family experienced devastating loss. When they returned to the rubble where their home once stood, her father miraculously found their serving bowl fully intact. This delicate, green, leaf-shaped bowl—which once held their daily meals—now holds memories of the past and serves as a vessel of hope, peace, and new traditions for Sachiko and the surviving members of her family.

NCTA Developed Curriculum Connections.

Curriculum Connections PDF

Reading Level- 4                    Accelerated Reader 3.6

Lexile- 650                            Dewey- 940.54

Summary: A Bowl Full of Peace is a beautifully illustrated book about a Japanese family whose traditions are stronger than the harsh realities of the world. The book takes place prior to WWII in Nagasaki, Japan. The story follows the family through the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and afterwards for almost fifty years.

Vocabulary: (All vocabulary definitions are from dictionary.com)

Cicadas: noun, plural  ci·ca·das, ci·ca·dae  (Pronounced : si-key-dee, –kah-)

any large homopterous insect of the family Cicadidae, the male of which produces a shrill sound by means of vibrating membranes on the underside of the abdomen.

Udon Noodles: noun, plural  u·don (Pronounced : oo-DOHN)

a thick, white Japanese noodle made from wheat flour, often served in soup.

Torpedoes: noun, plural  tor·pe·does

a self-propelled, cigar-shaped missile containing explosives and often equipped with a homing device, launched from a submarine or other warship, for destroying surface vessels or other submarines. Any of various submarine explosive devices for destroying hostile ships, as a mine.

Mackerel: noun, plural (especially collectively) mack·er·el, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) mack·er·els

a food fish, Scomber scombrus, of the North Atlantic, having wavy cross markings on the back.

Atomic Bomb: noun, A·tom·ic Bomb

a bomb whose potency is derived from nuclear fission of atoms of fissionable material with the consequent conversion of part of their mass into energy.

a bomb whose explosive force comes from a chain reaction based on nuclear fission in U-235 or plutonium.

Radiation: noun, ra·di·a·tion (Pronounced rey-dee-ey-shuhn)

  1. Physics
    1. the process in which energy is emitted as particles or waves.
    2. the complete process in which energy is emitted by one body, transmitted through an intervening medium or space, and absorbed by another body.
    3. the energy transferred by these processes.
  2. the act or process of radiating.
  3. something that is radiated.

Rubble: noun, rub·ble (Pronounced: ruhb-uhl)

  1. broken bits and pieces of anything, as that which is demolished: Bombing reduced the town to rubble.
  2. any solid substance in irregularly broken pieces.
  3. rough fragments of broken stone

Universal Theme:  The universal theme of this book is about the sharing of experiences to prevent future repetition of history.

Literature Themes that are represented in A Bowl Full of Peace

  • Good vs Evil
  • Facing Darkness
  • Power of Tradition
  • Darkness and Light
  • Displacement
  • Everlasting Love
  • Family blessing

Higher Level Questioning

REMEMBER: (Level 1) Recognizing and Recalling

  1. List the main events that happen in the story in order from beginning to end.
  2. Who were the family characters in the story?
  3. Describe what happened when the bomb hit Nagasaki.

UNDERSTAND: (Level 2) Interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, explaining

  1. What can you infer from the pages (18 and 19) depicting the bombing that have only illustrations and no words?
  2. How would you express the significance of finding grandma’s bowl when their entire house was destroyed?
  3. Compare and contrast the contents of grandmother’s bowl as the story progresses from peacetime to wartime. 

APPLY: (Level 3) Executing and implementing

  1. What examples can you find to show the importance of the bowl to the family?
  2. How would you develop a plan of what you could possibly take with you if you had to evacuate because of a war?
  3. How would you demonstrate a way to keep one of your family traditions alive?

ANALYZE: (Level 4) Differentiating, organizing, attributing

  1. How would you explain the significance of the fact that everyone in the family, dead and alive, had touched the bowl?
  2. Why do you think the author used the bowl in the story to represent family tradition?
  3. How can you compare the melting ice in the bowl to what happens to their family as the story progresses?

EVALUATE (Level 5) Checking and critiquing

  1. How did the illustrator portray the difficult times versus the good times in the drawings?
  2. Predict the outcome if the bowl had not survived.
  3. What facts can you gather about the effects the radiation had on the people in Nagasaki?

CREATE (Level 6) Generating, planning, producing

  1. Determine the value of the bowl to the family.
  2. What choice would you make fifty years after the war had ended to ensure that such a terrible thing didn’t happen again?  What did the author do?
  3. What is the most important lesson in this story? Why?

Research websites






Language Arts – Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy

Math – Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/

Social Studies – Standards: ​​https://aos98.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/ncss-standards.pdf

Middle Grades

Language Arts – Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy

Math – Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/

Social Studies – Standards: https://aos98.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/ncss-standards.pdf

High School

Language Arts – Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy

Math – Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/

Social Studies – Standards: https://aos98.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/ncss-standards.pdf


  1. Have students illustrate a story about a tradition they may have in their family.
  2. Have students research the bombing and the effects radiation has on a person’s body.
  3. Have students calculate the distance between Nagasaki and their hometown.
  4. Have students research and calculate the distance the effects of radiation were felt and what some of those effects were.
  5. Have students create their own family vessel to represent themselves.
  6. Have students write about how they would feel if their family went through this bombing. Students would need to use textual evidence in their reasoning. 

Author: Meredith Lesney, Middle School Librarian/Author


Author’s page


2020 Nerdies: Best Nonfiction Picture Book

Kirkus Best Children’s Books, Winner, 2020

Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books, Winner, 2020