For twenty-five years, middle-grade readers have been moved by this telling of Sadako Sasaki’s spirited battle with leukemia. She was two-years-old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II, and dizzy spells began when she was twelve. She faced the disease with an irrepressible spirit and focused her energy (and that of everyone who knew her) on folding 1000 paper cranes, which Japanese legend held would prompt the gods to make her well again. Eleanor Coerr crafted this story of Sadako’s twelfth year after reading the book of her letters her classmates compiled after her death. (Book cover image and blurb from Goodreads)

Before reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, I had two misconceptions about the story. First, my image of Sadako in the story was the same with the scary and long-haired Sadako of The Ring and The Grudge.

Second, I thought the cranes were those large equipments used for lifting heavy objects such as this:

image from Wikipedia

After reading reviews about the book, however, I realized that the Sadako in Eleanor Coerr’s book is a true story of a girl in Japan who died at the age of 12. And that the cranes referred to are not machines but a type of long-legged and long-necked birds, like these:

image from Wikipedia

Sadako Sasaki was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1943 and she was two years old when the atom bomb was dropped by the United States Air Force and destroyed the city. Ten years later Sadako died due to leukemia, or what was referred to that time as the “atom bomb sickness.” While she was in the hospital, Sadako’s friend, Chizuko, brought her a gold Origami crane. Origami is the traditional Japanese style of sculpting something out of paper folding. In Japanese culture, it is believed that a sick person who folds one thousand paper cranes will get well. Sadako made paper cranes during her free time at the hospital but she was not able to complete the 1,000. She was only able to finish 644 cranes until she died on October 25, 1955. Her classmates made the remaining 356 paper cranes and buried all the 1,000 paper cranes with her. Sadako Sasaki became a symbol of the effects of nuclear war. A statue of her holding a paper crane was built in Hiroshima.

Sadako Sasaki's statue in Hiroshima

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a touching short story, only 65 pages in all, that can make you smile and teary-eyed at the same time. It is a story that tells of the tragic aftermath war and how most often, in war, it is the children who suffer the most. My copy of the book comes with illustrations by Kazuhiko Sano and towards the end part of the book is a tutorial on how to fold a paper crane. Out of curiosity, I decided to follow the instructions but couldn’t get past step 16 (there are 33 steps). Either the instructions are inaccurate, or I just don’t have the patience to follow instructions carefully. Whatever it is, I find folding paper cranes a tedious task especially to a little girl suffering from leukemia who has to battle weakness and dizziness, not to mention swelling of some body parts. Sadako Sasaki is indeed a symbol of resilience, hope and courage and her story reminds me to be persistent and strong despite all odds, not to mention figuring out how to finish my own Origami crane.

I strongly recommend Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr to everyone, both young and old. It is a quick and easy read but one you cannot forget for a long time.

4 stars.
26/50 2011 Goodreads Reading Challenge.

I was finally able to finish my own Origami crane. It’s not as lovely as I expect to be but it’s still an accomplishment, right? 😉

my first ever Origami 🙂

Here’s a video tutorial on how to make an Origami crane that I found in Youtube:

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