Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

Book review by
Pam Gelman, Common Sense Media
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Moving book about dying girl who became symbol for peace.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 14 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This is a book often used in classroom settings. Parents may want to use this book to discuss WWII, the atomic bomb, and even how Sadako remains a symbol for peace worldwide.

Positive Messages

Readers will find messages about finding courage and spirit in the face of adversity through family, friends, and inner strength.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The young girl's courage, desire to live, and legacy of peace that continues today will touch readers of every age.


Presents some historical facts: Description of bomb falling, people getting sick and dying.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is the true story of an 11-year-old Japanese girl diagnosed with leukemia who ultimately dies from cancer. Sadako Sasaki was just 2 when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. She shares what she knows about the "thunderbolt:" what people remember seeing, and later when people she knows become sick and die. When Sadako becomes ill, there are vivid passages about her pain, weakness, sadness, and loneliness. Her family also describes their intense sadness through words and tears. The material can be intense, but the young girl's courage, desire to live, and legacy of peace that continues today will touch readers of every age. Parents may want to read this book aloud to younger readers (and preview it first so they're ready to respond to questions and reactions). It can be used to discuss WWII, the atomic bomb, and even how Sadako
remains a symbol for peace worldwide.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySAsh23 January 18, 2020

A heavy, but somewhat directionless story

A story of a girl who is dying and who hangs her last hope on folding 1,000 paper cranes. The hopelessness of her story is heartbreaking, but there really isn... Continue reading
Parent Written byRobyn P. July 20, 2018

Very heavy book

This book was recommended for my school's "Battle of the Books" program for my 3rd grader. Next thing I know he's asking me if we dropped a... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2008


it was so boring and i hated my teacher made me read it in class i think it the worst book ever
Teen, 14 years old Written bybooks for life February 2, 2021

the best book you'll ever read

i love the book its worth reading the ending is very sad i cried a lot and i would recommand reading this book.

What's the story?

Sadako is a Japanese girl who lives with her older brother, younger sister, younger brother, and parents in Hiroshima, 1955. She attends school, has a best friend, and participates with Peace Day, a celebration to honor those who lost their lives due to the atomic bomb that was dropped during WWII. She is also opinionated, competitive, strong, and courageous. She is chosen to participate in a race at school, and while running, feels dizzy. At first a secret, her symptoms soon are detected by teachers. In the hospital she is diagnosed with leukemia, "the bomb disease." Her best friend visits and reminds her of a legend that if a sick person folds one thousand cranes, she'll be gifted by the gods with health. She sets to this task and with spirit, strength, and courage, folds an amazing 644 paper cranes.

Is it any good?

A modern classic, this is an important story for today's young readers ready for the subject matter. Parents may want to share it with kids so they can answer questions about disease and World War II. The descriptions of what Sadako and loved ones experience during the time she's in the hospital are quite sad and moving. But out of that sadness comes plenty of support from friends, classmates, family, and the medical staff, as well as hope in the form of the paper cranes she folds. It's quite an inspiring message that kids and grownups continue to fold these cranes today, and every year cranes are sent to Hiroshima as a symbol of peace and in honor of this girl who wouldn't give up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the long-lasting interest in this book. It was written in the '70s about a girl who died in the '50s. Why is it still relevant?

  • This book tells the true story of a little girl's suffering and death. Is it harder to read about intense and sad things if you know they are true? Why do you think it is important to learn history and about people like Sadako?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

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