Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Review: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr; illustrated by Ronald Himler

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a short book that packs an emotional wallop through it's simple narrative. It is the true story of Sadako Sasaki, who was only two years old when the atom bomb fell on her city of Hiroshima, Japan. Now it is nine years later, and she discovers that she has the "atom bomb disease" (leukemia).

The book doesn't focus on any political message, nor does it focus on the war. It is simply the story of a young girl dealing with her own sickness and death, as a result of an event she herself doesn't remember. Nevertheless, this is a tough book for kids and one that sparks discussions about a myriad of topics: war, war on civilians, atomic bombs, cancer, family support during sickness, whether children are trusted with information about their own illness, hope or lack of hope, myths and legends on which people pin their hopes, death, fear of death. And yes, one comes away with a very anti-war feeling of one's own.

I borrowed Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes from the library to read aloud as part of our world history study. Olivia took it off the stack and read it herself before I had the chance to read it aloud. She soon came back with lots of questions. That sparked Karina's curiosity in the book, so she took it off to read. Much, much discussion ensued on all the topics mentioned previously. (Our copy was the original hardcover, pictured to the right, which contains a brief prologue and epilogue. I understand that later versions also contain discussion points. I wish we'd had that version, but we sure managed tons of discussion that sprang naturally from reading the story, even without a guide.)

I suspect this is a story my girls will forever remember.

Karina's response to my query about her reaction to the book was simple, but she takes longer to process thoughts than Olivia. She said: I thought it was really sad, but really good.

Olivia said:
This is a really sad book, but really worth reading. Until I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, I didn't even know America had dropped bombs on Japan during World War Two. It made me sad to think of so many people being killed or infected because of it. The story is good. I loved it. I loved that it was about a real girl. And the pictures helped me to understand some things about the story. I liked the legend of the thousand paper cranes, even though they didn't help Sadako. In the end they did help her since the sight of them moving gently on the breeze gave her comfort as she died. I kept hoping she'd get better, but I realized pretty soon that she just wasn't. I'd definitely recommend it. It's one I'd read again. I think this is a book teachers should read to their students. Warning: reading this book will make you cry, especially the end, so read it with a tissue handy. Don't be afraid of crying; you won't regret reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.



Published in 1977 by G.P. Putnam's Sons
Review copy borrowed from the library.

13 comments:

  1. Olivia's commentary is an excellent reminder of why books and reading are so powerful. I wish I had known of this book when I was making my classics from the 70s list, I might even have included it. Thanks for sharing your experience with it.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Erica. We entered new, tougher territory with this book, but worth it, I think. I loved the discussion it generated. I loved watching them make new connections/associations to life, if that makes any sense.

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  2. I know I just commented on this post with my alter-ego above but thanks for linking up to The Children's Bookshelf. I'm also pinning this to TCB's pin board.

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    1. Thanks for providing the opportunity to link!

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  3. I will never forget reading this book in later elementary school. I haven't reread it since and I'm sure I'd cry if I did! Not sure I'm ready to read it with my son yet!

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    1. I'm actually glad I didn't have to read it aloud, because I cried when I read it, and I couldn't have gotten through a read-aloud without lots of tears shed.

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  4. Wow! This sounds like an emotional book, but so beautifully done. We can't protect our innocent children forever - unfortunately not all stories end well. I'd be curious to see how my children would react. Our daughters are the same age (9)!

    I'm visiting from the Children's Bookshelf and i'm now following you via email and GFC. Just wanted to let you know that your Twitter button doesn't seem to be working right now. Hope you have a wonderful week. Cheers!

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    1. It was emotional, and after I read it, I wondered if I should have let my girls read it, but they seem to have weathered the experience, with tons of discussion. So I think it was worth it all around. In the days since, they've been booktalking it to friends, too.

      Thanks for following, Renee! And commenting. And for letting me know about the Twitter button. I'm not sure what to do with that, beyond reloading it again.

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    2. I think the post-reading discussion is so important when you read a "heavy" book to your children. They usually have so many questions - many of which we sometimes can't even answer.

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  5. Please tell Olivia that her comments about the book brought tears to my eyes - can you imagine what the book would do to me!?

    I appreciate this lovely review.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to respond. Olivia was thrilled by your acknowledgment. She said, "But sometimes it's worth it to cry."

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  6. I love your blog! This is a great idea! I love to read and so do my girls! Can't wait to see what all you recommend!

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  7. I somehow missed this wonderful review back when you linked it up to TCB. I love the thoughtfulness and emotion that your review brings out. I'm familiar with this book, but I'm not sure if I have read it. I will have to check it out from the library!

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