Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes

Blair of Wise Craft recently posted a fabulous list of books for young girls. As the mother of a young girl, I'm always on the lookout for books that are both interesting and appropriate for my daughter, as well as books that I'd enjoy reading along with her. Though it didn't make Blair's list, I wanted to share a book and a project that my daughter and I recently enjoyed.

The book is Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, a short book (read aloud in less than an hour) about a young girl in Japan who becomes ill with radiation sickness several years after America dropped the atom bombs on Japan. The story is sad yet inspiring. We were inspired to start making origami cranes.

I don't know that we'll make a thousand, but if we did, this is what we would do with them.


This paper sculpture hangs in the library of our local elementary school. It is quite breathtaking. Makes me wish we had a huge room with vaulted ceilings to suspend our own sculpture.

a thousand cranes

Coincidentally, a homeschooling friend of mine had introduced the Sadako book to her daughter the very same week we read the book. One afternoon, we got together and our friends showed us how to fold cranes. Here's a tutorial for folding paper cranes:

How To Fold An Origami Paper Crane (Orizuru) - The funniest bloopers are right here

And here is a short video (found via Folding Trees) about Sadako, presented in origami stop motion animation:

We're currently re-reading The Boxcar Children, and I must admit I enjoy the original story so much more than the subsequent mysteries. My son absolutely loves Benny, and I love hearing him giggle every time Benny does something silly (like cutting the letter J in his dog's fur - boy, did that get some giggles). The story makes me want to find an abandoned boxcar on an obsolete train track and set up house. I wonder if this boxcar is available?

soule train

Get it? Soule Train. I bet there would be plenty of room to suspend a thousand cranes inside.


  1. I loved that book as a girl.
    I had forgotten the name. I am going to go right now to the library and check it out! time for some origami.

  2. That was one of my favourite books when I was younger. The Boxcar Children were a favourite series of mine as well. :)

  3. One year for New Years we dedicated it as the Year of a Thousand Cranes.

    We folded and hung 1000 paper origami cranes from the ceiling at my parents' home to wish for an upcoming year of peace and harmony!

    They were so beautiful; twirling and shifting with even the slightest breeze of us walking through the room!

  4. beautiful...a few years ago, some local children made 1000 paper cranes after a much-loved teacher passed away; a beautiful, touching tribute...

  5. Thanks so much for the tutorial. I've been trying to connect with my friend Nancy who is folding 1000 cranes for the Hiroshima Event coming in August to help with the project. Now I can just start at home.

    What a beautiful sculpture!

  6. That book has always been one of my favorites...it really spoke to me even as a young girl.

  7. Those are pretty pictures!

  8. The paper cranes are so beautiful.
    My friend from Japan taught me how to fold these when I was 10. Now, I fold them to keep the kids from wiggling in church and I just folded a box full and sent them off to a friend with cancer.

  9. There is a statue dedicated to Sadako in Seattle. Children hang cranes from it:
    I want to visit but we always run out of time when we go to the city.

  10. i loved The Boxcar Children when i was young and never really lost my desire for a train cabin, and a dump filled with almost perfect teacups. i can't seem to get past the graphics of the new series, and haven't read any of them. Should I?

  11. AnonymousJuly 02, 2009

    i think that might be one of the most beautiful things i have ever seen. wow.

    i love that series too. i got emily reading the Betsy-Tacy series as a try and she loved them and they were written over 65 years ago, some things are just timeless aren't they!

  12. tara - i think it's a crying shame that all the boxcar books don't have the silhouette illustrations found in the original book! i think a few of the mysteries are ok, but not my fave :) stick with the older ones is my advice.

  13. How fabulous Molly!
    I adore the paper crane mobile, I love the combination of the book and artwork together!
    I think you could start a little paper crane project with all your readers here!!

  14. Ahh... paper cranes. My husband and I folded 1,000 for our wedding in memory of my Japanese grandma. Her last name translates to "crane." How you brought back memories. Thank you.

  15. Molly as always beautiful stuff. I loved this post and this sculpture. I dabble in Origami. I love this so much that I linked to this post on the blog I share with my sister and I borrowed one of the pictures, you are fully credited and the picture is also linked to you. Here is the blog from which I linked. http://365thingsyoudidntknow.blogspot.com/

    Thanks as always.

  16. I remember reading that book as a young girl. I never sat down in one sitting to make 1000 cranes but over the years I have made them at so many events, out of so many types of 'paper' for kids to play with. Lately I find myself making them at baseball games out of whatever I can find for my kids to play pretend. So fun!

  17. my girl went on a Sadako inspired crane kick a few years ago. She still folds cranes, as she falls into odd scraps of paper, like cough drop wrappers and grocery store receipts.

  18. That umbrella with those cranes are amazing...makes me feel like making them too. Happy weekend.

  19. What a great post. I also love your new header. The bold red is so summery!

  20. The sculpture is amazing! The colors are so vivid...what a great idea!

  21. I love the cranes more than I can say. So beautiful.

    There was a complete set of The Boxcar Children books at a yard sale I went to. Almost bought them to read again and now I am sorry I didn't. I have fond memories of one of my teachers in grade school reading us a chapter everyday after lunch. I loved the story...

  22. The banner is most excellent.
    I enjoyed reading everyone's crane stories.
    My daughter went through the crane making stage a couple of years ago.
    They are packing things to go visit their grandparents - I will make sure they take some coloured paper - in case it rains.

  23. My daughter (age 9) brought home this book from school this Spring. She has since endeavored to make a thousand cranes for her room. We are collecting them in a bag, and it weighs on me that I haven't hung any yet, because honestly, thinking of hanging them singly gives me hives. I love this umbrella idea. I had never thought to string them close together.

    I am going to go jump to that list immediately! She has resorted to rereading everything we own, so it's time for something new!

  24. cute new banner... though I did love the blueberries, too ;)

    Do you guys have this book (Sadako) and if so, can we borrow for an afternoon? I'm so glad you got a picture of the 1000 cranes in the library. I was sad I forgot to do it.

    And now I know why I loved the 1st boxcar children and never liked any of the other ones. I didn't realize there was an old and a new series.

  25. wow those cranes are amazing -- I might mention it to my sons school - can I ask which website you got the pictures from please ? Oh and I love the Billy Vance story - she sounds like she was a lovely lady.

  26. that sculpture is fantastic. my girls and i have tried our hand at origami a few times. . .it definitely takes some patience:)

  27. When my eldest boy was in Grade 4, his teacher read that book to the children and the whole class spent the rest of the school year making paper cranes whenever they had a spare minute. They reached 1000 in the final week of school and they all hang in the foyer of the school now.

    They look magnificent!

  28. When I was a teacher in Japan, I folded a thousand cranes with my students. We took them to a local temple. It was a very moving experience. And Sadako's story is a beautiful one, isn't.

    And we are also on a boxcar kids kick around here, too. Love that shot of the "soule train"!

  29. Thank you for posting about this amazing book, it should definitely be on the list I made. It sounds like the kind of book that can spark some really thoughtful conversation between mother and daughter.

  30. I'm going to check this one out...love the crane photo.


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