Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

12-year-old Sadako Saski is an energetic and enthusiastic Japanese girl who brightens any day with her presence. She has memories of the atomic bomb, even though she was only a toddler when it destroyed her city. 10 years after the bombing she experiences dizzy spells, and soon learns she has developed a secondary atomic bomb disease, leukemia. With the prospect of months in the hospital, Sadako’s friend Chizuko brings her a present of a golden origami crane, and tells her this story:

“Don’t you remember that old story about the crane? Chizuko asked. “It’s supposed to live for a thousand years. If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again”. She handed the crane to Sadoko. “Here’s your first one” Sadako’s eyes filled with tears. How kind of Chizuko to bring a good luck charm! Especially when her friend didn’t really believe in such things. Sadako took the golden crane and made a wish. The funniest little feeling came over her when she touched the bird. It must be a good omen.

Sadako busies herself making the paper cranes, and despite her declining health, she remains brave and hopeful she will recover. She touches the lives of all she meets, including those of us who read her true story. This is a beautiful little book, and though it can be easily read in a sitting (67 pages), the message of peace and hope will resonate for much longer. Yes the story is sad, but I think Sadako is a true heroine, and her story would be a lovely way to introduce Japanese culture; many aspects of the Japanese lifestyle and their belief system are presented. Also, in the back of the book are step-by step instructions for making your own origami cranes.

Here are some helpful links for incorporating further study in:

Japanese culture

Simple recipes

World War II unit study link

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