While living in Japan, author Eleanor Coerr heard about twelve-year-old Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died in 1955 of leukemia resulting from radiation poisoning. Sadako’s family had been living in Hiroshima when the United States dropped the atomic bomb on the city in 1945. Sadako’s personal letters had already been collected and published in a book entitled Kokeshi, so Coerr decided to write Sadako’s story for American children.
On the morning of August 6, 1954, eleven-year-old Sadako Sasaki runs out into the street to greet the cloudless, sunny sky. She deems the pleasant weather a sign of good luck. Inside the house, Sadako’s younger sister and two brothers are still asleep, so Sadako awakens her elder brother, Masahiro. He crawls out of bed once he smells the bean soup cooking in the kitchen. Soon Sadako’s sister, Mitsue, and younger brother, Eiji, are also awake. Sadako rushes into the kitchen and pleads with her mother for the family to hurry so they can go to the carnival. Her mother scolds her for calling the event a carnival—August 6 is Peace Day, a day of reverence and remembrance for those who died when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Sadako’s father reminds her that her own grandmother died on that terrible day. Sadako says that she prays for her grandmother’s spirit every morning, and the Sasaki family then gathers around the altar to pray for Oba chan and give thanks for the blessings in their life. Mr. Sasaki also prays that his family be protected from leukemia, “the atom bomb disease,” because even though the bomb had been dropped nine years earlier, the radiation that had filled the air remains inside people’s bodies for a long time.
Back at the breakfast table, Sadako finishes eating her meal before everyone else, and she and Mitsue clean the kitchen. Sadako must sit and wait patiently for her family to get ready to leave the house. While she sits, a spider walks across the room. Sadako cups the spider in her hands and releases it outside for good luck.
When the Sasakis leave home to attend the Peace Day memorial event, Sadako runs ahead to meet her best friend, Chizuko. The girls race up the street, and Mr. Sasaki feels proud that Sadako is such a strong, fast runner. Inside the entrance to the Peace Park, many photographs of dead and dying people and the ruined city of Hiroshima line the walls. Sadako does not want to look at the horrifying images,...
(The entire section is 1775 words.)
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