Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes: Summary & Characters

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  • 0:02 Sadako's Story
  • 0:33 Sadako Gets Sick
  • 1:38 Paper Cranes
  • 2:10 Sadako's Legacy
  • 2:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Valerie Keenan

Valerie has taught elementary school and has her master's degree in education.

Sadako Sasaki was a real girl who lived in Japan nearly a decade after an atomic bomb was dropped in an attempt to end World War II. Read her true story and learn how she inspires hope and peace to this day.

Sadako's Story

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in an attempt to end World War II. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr, tells the true story of a young girl named Sadako Sasaki. Sadako Sasaki was a baby when the bomb devastated Hiroshima. Sadako's story picks up nine years after the explosion, and we meet an upbeat eleven year-old girl who loves running more than anything else in the world.

Sadako Gets Sick

Despite the close-knit family that the Sasakis enjoy, we learn early on in the book that the atom bomb dropped nearly a decade ago still has devastating effects. Sadako's grandmother, Oba Chan, was killed when the bomb was dropped. Also, people still fear what Sadako's mother refers to as the atom bomb disease, otherwise known as leukemia. The family prays to Oba Chan for protection from the disease, which is a cancer of the blood.

One afternoon, Sadako wins a race at school, and her dream of making the junior high racing team seems within reach. After the race, she feels very dizzy but decides to keep it a secret. A few weeks later on a cold day in February, Sadako collapses at school. After some tests are run at the Red Cross Hospital, the Sasaki's worst fears are confirmed: Sadako has leukemia.

Sadako stays in the hospital for a few weeks while Dr. Numata and Nurse Yasunaga look after her and run more tests. Sadako is devastated. She knows that she won't be able to run on the junior high racing team without training. She is also very afraid because she knows what it means to have the atom bomb disease.

Paper Cranes

One day, Sadako's best friend Chizuko comes to visit. She brings paper and scissors and shows Sadako how to make paper cranes. According to legend, folding 1000 paper cranes will make the gods grant a person's wish; in Sadako's case to be well again. Sadako spends the next few months folding as many paper cranes as she can.

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