Families, Create: Heroes and Heroines

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes

We’re going to try to explain World War II?

No. I waver just for a moment. Just what happened in Japan, after.

We stare at each other, both so-very-stubborn and so-very-sure that we’re RIGHT.

His eyes say It’s so sad.

And mine say What’s the point of doing this otherwise?

His tender heart is one of the many reasons that I love him. He doesn’t want to have this conversation with our young girls. But he yields to that not-giving-in-anytime-soon teacher heart of mine and trudges on.

Do you guys know what a war is?

Kayli nods confidently. A big fight.

That’s right Kay. There was a big fight. The United States thought that it was time for it to end.

He mentions Hiroshima. Bombs. Chemicals. Leukemia.

Kayli’s not-quite-seven year old brown eyes look serious. Chloe’s four year old’s version of the same eyes, but with her trademark spark, are open wide. Looking up at him through impossibly long lashes.

Are we still in a fight with them?

No, Chlo. We’re not. Japan and the United States are very good friends now.

Two sets of eyes, that match Jason’s to a tee, turn to mine. Sad. Inquisitive. Learning. But their shoulders relax for the moment. Good friends, they understand.

But HERO and HEROINE? For those they imagine capes. And flying. Maybe someone getting knocked down. Or saved. Or knocked down and then saved.

What they’re missing in their current definition, is IMPACT.

And that’s why I read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Ellen Coerr with the purpose of introducing the heroine, Sadako, to our children. Above is a glimpse of our dialogue about that really sad book that Mommy read the other night.

Honestly? It would have been easier to skip the lesson and just craft it up. I know that at my girls’ tender ages they don’t need to know about war. And leukemia. And children that die young.

And yet, they do.

Learning has the biggest impact when we can relate to the subject matter. When we feel something. Personal narratives make history come alive in a way that ice cold facts just can’t.

We remember people’s stories.

I dove into Sadako’s story on a Saturday night. Curled up on the couch as my family’s rambunctious noise surrounded me. Her youth. Her family. Her love of running. Her atom bomb sickness. Her hospitalization. Her death. And, of course, her cranes.

Don’t you remember that old story about the crane? Sadako’s best friend Chizuko asks. If a sick person folds a thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again. Here’s your first one.

And that’s where my tears started to flow. And how my children knew that the book was really, really sad.

And how I knew that it was right to share Sadako’s story with them.

Sadako was a heroine because she stayed strong in the face of her sickness.

She didn’t give up.

She fought.

But, she was also a heroine because she made a difference in people’s lives.

Sadako made 644 paper cranes. Her classmates made the other 356 so she could be buried with 1000.

Her friends wrote a book telling her story.

Young people in Japan raised money for a statue of Sadako.

People still leave cranes there today.

A Folded Crane Club was organized in Sadako’s honor.

We shared bits and pieces of Sadako’s narrative with our girls. The ones that they could understand, remember and know.

And then, once we had IMPACT, we crafted.

We used colorful origami paper to fold a crane, a frog, a butterfly and a fortune teller. Remember those? Choose a number. Then a color. Open up that flap to see your fortune! In this case: Your mom will say yes to whatever you ask for. Genius.

We saw for ourselves how very difficult origami is. We talked about Sadako’s earnest character. About hope. Positive thinking. And how powerful they are.

Later, the kids put on a play with their origami creations. Which, of course, ended in a wildness that had no hope of being contained. I didn’t even try. I just recorded a glimpse of the chaos. And set it to music. Obviously.

Once everyone settled down and was tucked into bed, we asked the kids about their day’s Highlights and Lowlights.

In case you’re wondering, learning about Sadako was a Highlight for all. Only beat out by warm chocolate chip cookies before bed. But really, chocolate chip cookies are tough competition.

This post was written as part of the “Families, Create!” Make and Play carnival hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children.

February brought many heroic crafts to the Families, Create! Carnival. Check out some of the wonderful posts from last month’s participants below, and be sure to visit Code Name: Mama and Living Peacefully with Children to find out how you can participate in the next Families, Create! Carnival.

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  1. Wow, what a tough topic to approach with such little ones. It sounds like you handled it beautifully and thoughtfully!

  2. What a difficult sunject to try and explain to your little girls….! I am in awe of the way you and Jason handled that. Such a complex set of circukstances and such a Horrific outcome for so very many people,,,,the orignal victims and their offspring and their offsprings offsprimg—if there were any.

    I couldn’t see the Video. It said it was a “private” video…..Oh well, that’s life……

  3. Oh, beautiful mama, you’re kidding me.

    I wrote an entire post on this book, then took a picture of the crane mobile that resulted and hangs in my son’s room.

    This is so wondrous.

    They’ll remember this lesson as adults.

    It will be a rich, velvety memory…that they can almost physically touch.

    • Oh honey, if you find it will you please leave the link here? I’d love to read it and I *know* that others would, too! XO

  4. This post gave me goosebumps, Galit. It’s so touching and, as difficult as the story is to tell to your young ones, I think it’s an important lesson and one that you approached beautifully. They will remember and cherish it always.

    Also, pictures and video are too cute for words :)

    Please DM me–I would love to catch up! Thanks for stopping by; I always love when you do. *HUGS*

  5. Love the tangible expression of some very hard to digest subjects. Lovely.

  6. Mary Fretland says:

    Love how you tackle the tough stuff with SUCH thoughtfulness and creativity. Hats off to you, friend. Hats off to you!

  7. I don’t know if I should be embarrassed or not to say this but, I’ve never heard of that book. However, from this wonderfully written post I know that if decided to find a copy and read it today I better have tissues. It sounds like a beautiful story and what a touching way to explain this history to your kids. And, they are so fortunate to have such teachers in their parents – so many do not take the time with their kids.
    Albeit short, loved the video Galit – first time I ever saw your kids in a live video. Hugs!

    • Kim, I *know!* I almost didn’t post it because it was so SHORT and they were so LOUD! But really? How could I not?! :)

  8. Galit …a very hard topic WOW …but one that exists today and very sad to say one that will continue to exist …when I read this I felt hope …of we can only teach our kids this generation …Wars come and go …and we need to learn from our past NOT to make the horrible mistakes humans make …history repeats itself …but how wonderful would the future be if OUR LITTLE ONES COULD FINALLY NEVER REPEAT PAST MISTAKES …thank you Galit …for HOPE

  9. What a poignant post, in more ways than one. You both sensitively conveyed what war is, and the repercussions with caring and thoughtfulness.

  10. I remember reading that as a child, it packs a quiet but very powerful punch, and a lesson that well bears repeating.

    Congratulations on the new digs, new gig and new start. I look forward to watching you soar.

    (Psst… I just put up a giveaway for a $50 gift certificate – swing by my blog for a chance to win.)

    My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

  11. This made me cry. I never want to explain this to my chidren- but I know that I will need to, and I really love the approach you took to it. What a precious, tender moment for your family.

  12. You know, I’ve heard of this book – and now I really want to read it. I got teary just reading your post about it. Your approach to the whole matter was gentle and loving and instructive. Good job, mama.

    Thanks for stopping by my place!

  13. I haven’t read that book yet but now I’m going to. I tend to shy away of these topics with my children, it’s like I want to protect them but I know these are important lessons and stories to share. I certainly know that my son, who just turned 6, is so curious about these things.

    You handled this so wonderfully with your children. I really love this and you have inspired me to approach these topics with the same gentle and loving approach that you did.

    And? Love the origami craft as a follow up. Beautiful post.

  14. I love that story about the paper cranes. Haven’t read it in years.

    Teaching our children about the sad or horrific things that happen in this world is something that pains me. When those tough questions come, it’s always hard to articulate this stuff to our kids. Thank goodness for chocolate chip cookies to fall back onto.

    I think you handled this beautifully.

  15. I can’t believe that I’ve never read this book before. I do remember hearing about the story of the cranes though.

    It sounds like you tackled this very huge subject in just the right way for your little ones. It is tough to talk about the hard things…but oh so necessary.

  16. Lovely, the moments, the message.

  17. Keely Weiland says:

    So, so great. When I was subbing in Fionna’s classroom on Monday, I saw that book sitting on top in a book tub. I thought to myself, “I need to read that book with Fionna”. She’d mentioned the story to me before and I shyed away. NOW I can do it. I WILL DO IT! I love you. I love that damn near every single thing you write hits home and resonates with me and my family in some way. This one was even a little more… well… timely. And appreciated. XOXO

  18. Your “Little Waves” are making illuminating splashes. Your sensitivity in explaining the subject matter is to be commended.

  19. I approach topics like these with answers like, “ask your teacher!” I am so in awe of how you think through your responses with such care. Truly, you are a wonderful mother my friend.

  20. Beautiful, touching, sad… I had to read it twice. It pains me to think that we will need to teach our little ones that this kind of horror exists in a world that, for them, still holds such innocence.

  21. I love love love this post. And I love the idea of teaching your children, even at a young age, what courage looks like. And what kindness can mean. Thank you for this.

  22. You taught me something, gave me the words, that feelings ARE what make us relate to one another. I avoid things that make me cry. I just don’t wanna feel sad. But that human emotion is what gives us compassion, understanding, makes us stand up for one another. Love Galit’s school!

  23. Very nicely done Galit, and before I forget let me say Yom Huledet Sameach. Actually I am not sure if that is today, yesterday or tomorrow but….

  24. What a great way to talk about such a difficult subject.

  25. Such a great job! You need to give teachers lessons on how to teach WWI!

  26. Becky Kimbrough says:

    OK, so of course I loved this post. Beautiful. I especially love what Rayna and Ashley said. If only all of your readers could see what a phenomenal classroom teacher you were! The memories still give me goosebumps. And the coolest thing? Is that all of those memories have contributed to your growth, to your becoming the amazing writer that you are today.

  27. you are amazing parents. i admire you!!! lisa

  28. I love that book, and what a sensitive way to introduce your children to such a horrible thing.

  29. Thank you so much for sharing. I think I’ll request the book from the library.

  30. This is incredible. I’ve encountered some tough topics with my three year old, but nothing of this magnitude yet. We’re just beginning to talk about death – Charlotte’s Web and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane have inspired some questions in the last month. It’s at moments like those that I wish I had someone guiding me along – I’m glad to see that it can be done so gracefully. Thank you for sharing!

  31. Barbara Edstrom says:

    Gabby and I are off to Barnes & Noble after preschool to pick up a couple of books and I am going to purchase Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Thank you for this wonderful post. It has reminded me that a very difficult subject, written and presented in a gorgeous book can be presented to children at a young age. We have the girls over Spring break, while Maria and Frank, are in Europe and it will be a great time to present this book. At 35 you are a very wise woman!!

  32. Absolutely beautiful. It is one thing to teach our kids but to teach them in a way that hits their hearts will last them a lifetime. You’re a wonderful mo
    And a teacher.
    Well done 😉

  33. “We remember stories.”..So true. Give a child names, dates and statistics and they may be able to regurgitate the information. But give a child a story and they remember the emotions and significance of those facts. Also, to incorporate creativity with the lesson is so thoughtful and wonderful. I am truly impressed with your ability to teach such a difficult topic with such love and grace.

  34. As a natural pessimist it’s going to be hard for me to infuse positivity into Sweet T, but I’ve got to find that balance. Thanks for the example!

  35. amazing…..


  1. […] Galit Breen at Three Little Waves used the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes as a springboard for a sensitive discussion and a fun origami project for her whole family in her post Families Create: Heroes and Heroines. […]

  2. […] Galit Breen at Three Little Waves used the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes as a springboard for a sensitive discussion and a fun origami project for her whole family in her post Families Create: Heroes and Heroines. […]

  3. […] Galit Breen at Three Little Waves  used the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes as a springboard for a sensitive discussion and a fun origami project for her whole family in her post Families Create: Heroes and Heroines. […]

  4. […] Galit Breen at Three Little Waves used the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes as a springboard for a sensitive discussion and a fun origami project for her whole family in her post Families Create: Heroes and Heroines. […]