• Happy birthday Stephanie S. Tolan (Surviving the Applewhites).
  • It’s the birth date of Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (1875–1961), Miss Hickory, Fred Marcellino (1938–2001), Puss in Boots, and Hardy Boys ghostwriter Leslie McFarlane (1902–1977), pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon.
  • John Steinbeck received the Nobel Literature Prize in 1962. His major works include The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, Travels with Charlie, and The Pearl.
  • It’s time for spaghetti silliness and macaroni mayhem on World Pasta Day. Read The Story of Noodles by Ying Chang Compestine and YoungShen Xuan, Pino and the Signora’s Pasta by Janet Pedersen, and Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola.

For two and a half weeks, through November 11, we celebrate World Origami Days. Why not try your hand at the Japanese folk art of paper folding that originated in the seventeenth century? During World Origami Days, I’m going to take a look at two novels that explore paper folding—one classic and one cutting edge.

The classic, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, was published in 1977, shortly after the end of the Vietnam War. Like so many other authors of historical fiction for children, Eleanor Coerr chose the time period of another conflict, World War II in the Pacific, to deliver her thoughts about the effects of war on children and her message of peace. As a journalist Coerr visited Japan for the first time in 1949 and spent three years interviewing the citizens about their post-World War II experience. After marrying a career diplomat and ambassador, she returned to Japan in the 1960s. At the Hiroshima Peace Park, she saw a new statue honoring Sadako Sasaki (1943–1955). Decorated with thousands of paper cranes, the memorial was engraved with these words: “This is our cry, this is our prayer: for building peace in the world.”

When she returned to the United States, Coerr became a children’s librarian and wrote books as well. For her eighth children’s book, she went back to Sadako’s letters, collected in an autobiography called Kokeshi, and presented the material in a straightforward manner so it could be read by children ages seven to ten.

Sometimes called the “Anne Frank of Hiroshima,” twelve-year-old Sadako was the star of the school running team, but her athletic prowess did not save her from contracting “the atomic bomb disease” leukemia. Sadako had once heard that paper cranes might cure illness: “If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again.” So she set out to fold that many, but died before they were finished. Her classmates completed the task for her and buried Sadako with a thousand paper cranes. In American schools, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is often accompanied by the folding of origami birds—instructions have been included in the book. In Japan on Peace Day, August 6, children place thousands of paper cranes on Sadako’s statue.

Today, October 25, marks the 56th anniversary of Sadako’s death. This slim book of eighty pages, written in very simple language, presents her heart-wrenching story. A three-handkerchief story, it will always work for those readers who request “a sad book”; it even ends with the line, “She never woke up.” By showing the effect of a war on the life of a vibrant and attractive child, Eleanor Coerr wrote a powerful book that advocates for peace.

Here’s a passage from Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes:

June came with its long, endless rains. Day after day the sky was gray as rain spattered against the windows. Rain dripped steadily from the leaves of the maple tree. Soon everything in the room smelled musty. Even the sheets felt clammy.

Sadako grew pale and listless. Only her parents and Masahiro were allowed to visit her. The bamboo class sent a Kokeshi doll to cheer her up. Sadako liked the wooden doll’s wistful smile and the red roses painted on its kimono. The doll stood next to the golden crane on Sadako’s bedside table.


Originally posted October 25, 2010. Updated for .

Tags: History, Origami, True Story, World War II
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Our son had to read it for school, and I grabbed it the moment he had finished. Great choice.
    And I love this site!

  2. Rachel says:

    I will always remember when my teacher read us this book in elementary school. She started crying and couldn’t finish, so I ended up reading the rest of the book to the class. I felt so proud! It’s a marvelous book.

  3. Anita says:

    Thanks for sharing that story. Now, every time you think about the book, you have this wonderful memory.

  4. janellla says:

    ‎”This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on Earth.”
    I love This book!

  5. Amanda Gazin says:

    A shout out for Miss Hickory. I loved this as a child and made my own Miss Hickorys with acorn heads (so, I was a kid, it was the nut to hand). As an adult, I realize just how weird this book is. I and still love it and occasionally find the right kid to recommend it to.

  6. G. Perry says:

    Looking back at my margin notes from “100 Best Books for Children” I see that I thought it was beautiful, powerful and deeply moving. On closing the book, I made a covenant with myself to to visit Hiroshima Peace Park when I visit Japan.

    So achingly beautiful, and yet, an almost unspeakable dark shadow across the path of a child.

    How beautiful and terrible humans can be. It makes me think of Carl Sagan’s work and thinking that if a peaceful advanced civilization were to visit us unaware, seeing TV broadcasts, or looking through a book like this, they’d consider us too ignorant and dangerous to connect with.

  7. DSH says:

    Another treasure to discover with my daughter. We’ve read so many good books since I discovered this site. Thanks Anita and Happy Birthday!

  8. Caryl B. says:

    Happy Birthday, Book-A-Day! What a wonderful gift you are to those of us who love to share great books with children and young adults. There have been so many gems that I have used with classes over the past year that I might otherwise never have read had it not been for this site. Thanks, Anita!

  9. Bobbi Miller says:

    Happy Happy Birthday, Book A Day! What a grand achievement, Anita. O yes, I also love this book!

  10. Anita says:

    Thank you Bobbi. Thank you for all your support over this last year.

  11. J.P. Blasko says:

    We read this in second or third grade, and I remember being devastated to discover that Sadako did not survive. Clearly an indelible mark to leave in the mind of grade-schoolers. On a happier note, I see in the write-up that Ealeanor Coerr became a children’s librarian and wrote books – as a future children’s librarian, it’s hard to imagine anything more inspiring than a role model who spread a message of peace so far and wide. But then again, I’m biased and see librarians as pretty firmly on the side of Good :)

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