When the atom bomb devastated Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, Sadako Sasaki was only two. Her family were lucky enough to escape the effects of the blast, or so they thought: until Sadako was twelve, she was fit and healthy and the fastest runner on her school relay team. But one day at school she collapsed while running, having felt dizzy for a while, and was admitted to hospital, where they found she had leukaemia - "the atom bomb disease".
While she was in hospital, her best friend reminded her of the old Japanese legend that if she folded a thousand origami paper cranes, the gods might grant her wish to be well again. With courage and faith, Sadako began folding. Although she was only able to fold 644 cranes before she died, Sadako's bravery had a profound effect on her friends and classmates. They completed her thousand cranes and raised money from school children all over Japan to build a statue to honour Sadako, and all the children affected by the bomb. Her statue now stands in Hiroshima's Peace Park, holding a golden crane in outstretched arms. At its base a plaque reads: "This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world."
Eleanor Coerr's book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes tells Sadako's story, partly reconstructed from her letters to schoolfriends. The peace organisation founded in her name has a site at www.sadako.org.