Falling Stars

By: Shirley Reva Vernick


A middle grade historical fiction novel explores the true story of the only WWII casualties in the continental U.S.


A middle grade historical fiction novel explores the true story of the only WWII casualties in the continental U.S.

Nellie and Tamiko live on opposite sides of the world, on opposite sides of World War II. In rural Oregon, Nellie passes the time laying out in the grass and studying the stars, wishing for her Pa to come back home, and for Joey, her next-door neighbor to talk to her like they used to before his brother was killed in the war. In southern Japan, Tamiko passes the time writing in her diary, hoping one day she can work in the theater making costumes, and praying her brother Kyo will make it back home from fighting. Thousands of miles apart, the two girls share the same wish: for the war to be over. When the Japanese military recruits young girls for a secret project, Nellie and Tamiko’s lives become inextricably linked.

Tamiko and her classmates are tasked with making paper balloons. The work is arduous and relentless, and no one has told the girls how the balloons will help the military, but Tamiko believes she is doing her part to help Japan win and end the war once and for all. Nellie tries to do her part by rationing and working in salvage drives. Even so, the war feels worlds away—until a paper balloon makes its way to her hometown.

Based on Japan’s Project Fu-Go during the last stretch of WWII, Falling Stars uses the alternating perspectives of Nellie and Tamiko to depict the back and forth tragedies of two countries at war. Although continents apart, both girls come to understand that in a time of uncertainty and fear, blind hate for the “enemy” leaves a heavier heart and more debris. Falling Stars weaves real history with unforgettable characters who must deal with war and hatred right alongside friendship, first love, and family.

1 review for Falling Stars

  1. Margi Preus, author of Heart of a Samurai
    In this extraordinary story inspired by a little-known incident during WWII, Vernick brings to life the hardship, trauma, loneliness and longing of two girls enduring the same war from worlds apart, yet with hope and the resilience of the human spirit always shining through, bright as stars against the night sky.

    Robert Sharenow, author of The Berlin Boxing Club
    Combining rich historical detail and urgent emotional drama, Vernick has created a unique and powerful coming-of-age story set against a complex and little-known chapter in America’s war with Japan.

    Janet Fox, author of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
    Falling Stars is a moving and beautifully researched story, rich with period detail, about two teen girls – one American, one Japanese – on either side of the Pacific in the latter days of World War 2. Readers will be captivated by the unique, powerful voices of Nellie and Tamiko as the girls discover through their experiences of family, tragedy, patriotism, and propaganda that hatred is not a cure for loss.

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