Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

Image result for sadako cranesSadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
Eleanor Coerr
Putnam, 1977  64 pages
Grades 2-5
Historical Fiction

Eleven-year-old Sadako is the best runner in her class. She dashes around, never doing anything slowly, driving her mother crazy with all of her energy. Sadako's dreams come true when she is placed on her school's relay team and they go on to win the citywide running competition in her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan. Unfortunately, before Sadako has a chance to try-out for the middle school team, she begins to experience dizzy spells. It is finally discovered that Sadako has been stricken by Leukemia, a disease commonly experienced by many victims of the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II. Even though Sadako was only a baby at the time of the bombing, ten years later the effects devastatingly manifested. Sadako is placed in the hospital where she begins folding paper cranes. It is a Japanese belief that if you fold one-thousand origami cranes you will get your wish. Sadako's wish was for healing. Unfortunately, Sadako never completes the cranes and passes away at only twelve years old. Her classmates finish folding the cranes for her and she is buried with the thousand cranes, becoming a symbol for remembrance and peace throughout Japan, and, eventually, the entire world.

I was very moved by the book Sachiko, which I recently read and after-which felt compelled to re-read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Although Sachiko is non-fiction and for an older audience, both books deal with the devastating effects of nuclear weapons on the civilians of Japan at the end of the second world war. Sadako introduces this horrific chapter in history to a young audience in a digestable and relate-able way. Sadako could be any child and she possesses a wonderful spirit and energy. Kids will empathize with Sadako's illness and feel great sadness at her death. Certainly the author by writing this story is sending out a plea for peace. This plea is as relevant today as it was when the book was set in the 1950's and when it was written in the 1970's. Being historical fiction, the author took some liberties in writing the story. According to this work of fiction, Sadako never finished folding the cranes and, therefore, dies. In reality, Sadako folded over 13,000 cranes. Her family has kept some of the cranes and have sent them over the years to places experiencing violence in an attempt to bring resolution and healing. One such crane can be found in the 911 Memorial in New York City. Thanks to a little girl who lost her life from the effects of war, the origami crane has become an international symbol of peace. This beautiful, easy to read, and short in length volume is long in content and import and will have a lasting effect on the young people who read it. More recent editions contain directions for folding paper cranes, which will inspire kids to get involved in spreading the message of peace on their own.

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