Sadako (Eleanor Coerr)

Sadako is a picture book and written on a third grade reading level, but I will say without reservation that this piece has impacted me very deeply.

Everybody knows about Pearl Harbor and the US dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many of us even have ancestors who served during World War II. We have been taught to remember it as a proud moment in our nation's history, how America (for once) showed its great might and power and delivered the blow that brought Japan to its knees.

Sadako is a narrative biography that tells the story of Sadako Sasaki, a 10 year old Japanese girl who was 9 months old when the bomb was dropped on her city of Hiroshima. Known as The Thunderbolt, the bomb not only killed thousands of people and devastated every part of Japan's existence (infrastructure, economy, etc.), but it also left behind residual chemicals that caused thousands more in the following years to develop leukemia and other cancers. Sadako Sasaki went from being an innocent little girl who had no idea about world politics and whose only concern was whether or not she would make the track team at school to fighting for her life against a sickness that was caused by a war.

Ingrained in the Japanese culture is the concept of luck and legends. One legend is that if a person folds (origami) 1,000 paper cranes, the gods will grant their wish. Sadako's sets out to folding her 1,000 cranes, and with every fold she wishes that she will get better. Sadako is unable to finish folding her last 300 or so, and after her death her schoolmates fold them on her behalf. It has become a tradition in Japan and all over the world for students to fold paper cranes and send them to the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan, where a statue of Sadako stands in her honor.

I love this book because it lends itself to so many different topics. Just a few of the topics I could use this with students include: considering other points of view, the culture of Japan, legends and traditions, art, WWII, war in general, sickness, death, friendship, etc.