Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by author Eleanor Coerr, Illustrations Ronald Himler
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a children’s book for the 7-10 year range but has a mature enough story that anyone can read and appreciate it. The English copy I have of the book is illustrated with black and white drawings while the Japanese version has large format color illustrations. I read the English and looked and the pretty Japanese pictures. There will be spoilers in this review but it’s a very short kids’ book so I think you’ll be okay.
Sadako is a young girl who survived the Hiroshima bombings only to get radiation induced lukemia. She’s dying but is told that if she is able to fold 1,000 paper origami cranes that the gods may grant her the favor of life. So she spends her time in the hospital folding hundreds of cranes while her family helps her hang them. She wants to live and her child mentality thinks this is the way.
Unfortunately, she is unable to fold 1,000 cranes before her disease takes her life. This is, of course, heartbreaking. Her classmates pick up where she left off and they finish folding the cranes to place on her grave.
I do love it when childrens’ books tackle tough subjects like death. I am a firm believer that children can handle these issues and shouldn’t be sheltered from them. I support books like Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes bringing these issues to the open where children can then discuss them with parents and teachers.
The moral of this kid’s book is a little strange though. Especially when the true story is taken into account. Apparently, there was a real girl named Sadako who folded well over 1,000 cranes. And still died. Because death comes for all of us no matter what superstitions you attempt to enforce.
This is a better story and moral. Death is inevitable, learn that lesson young kiddos! But the moral we get is that she didn’t work hard enough to earn life? That’s not quite the lesson I want to teach anyone. It also seems unfair to lie to someone about this kind of superstition. But maybe it served as a good distraction from her pain and mortality? Clearly, there is a lot to unpack in this short picture book.
Overall, the book is sweet and emotional and I would still recommend it. I would just also recommend being on standby for a discussion afterwards, this isn’t one to just leave with a child and then leave them to figure it out on their own.
4/5 “cranes” 🦢🦢🦢🦢
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For more challenging books to introduce to children try They Called Us Enemy
Yes. Sadako is based on the story of real life Sadako Sasaki. However, her ending was different than that of the book. Based on the testimony of her family she was able to fold more than 1,000 cranes before her death.
This changes the moral of the story quite a bit and instead of having a poor girl feel like she was unable to prevent her own demise we have a girl who did everything she was told would help her and still died. Tragic either way.
Reading level grades 2 through 5