Children’s picture book author in U.S. publishes book in English introducing Sadako Sasaki’s life based on her brother’s personal notes

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

Sue Dicicco, 61, an author and illustrator of children’s books living in the U.S. state of California, has published a non-fiction book in English featuring the life story of the late Sadako Sasaki, who experienced the atomic bombing at the age of two. The book is co-authored by Ms. Dicicco, a former animator for the Walt Disney Company, and Masahiro Sasaki, 78, Sadako’s older brother who now lives in Nakagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture. The first edition of the book was released two years ago, but the two authors extensively rewrote the publication with the aim of ensuring that readers can come to a better understanding of the actual damage wrought by the atomic bombing.

The book’s title is The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki, who was the inspiration for the creation of the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Ms. Dicicco refined the text based on Mr. Sasaki’s personal notes. The book takes a look back at Sadako’s life with photographs, starting from her birth in January 1943, until her death 10 years later at age 12. The book also explains that Sadako folded the 1,000th paper crane two months before she died, that she continued to fold cranes even as her condition worsened, and that her classmates launched a campaign for erecting the Children’s Peace Monument.

Naomi Nakagoshi, 57, a resident of the town of Kumano, Hiroshima Prefecture who works as a national interpreter guide and peace volunteer for the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, provided the reference materials for the book. Ms. Dicicco made an effort to use straightforward expressions such as “Surface temperatures at the hypocenter escalated to 3,000℃ to 4,000℃. (The surface temperature of the sun is 5,700℃; iron melts at 1,500℃)” and “Dead bodies floated like duckweed in the river.” She used such language to ensure that children reading the book can more readily imagine the scenes.

While working on her illustrations, Ms. Dicicco founded and continues to operate the Peace Crane Project, which encourages students around the world to fold paper cranes and send them to each other. She was prompted to establish the project by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in the United States in 2012, which took the lives of 26 teachers and children. While working on the project, with its more than two million members from 154 nations, she came up with the idea of publishing a book about Sadako’s life. She said, “I discovered the story that children in the U.S. were most commonly reading was not the same story that the Peace Museum in Hiroshima and others told. I felt it important for English speaking students to read a true accounting of her life, and not a novel.”

Ms. Dicicco added, “Sadako is a such a beautiful example of some of the best of Japanese culture, the emphasis in life of thinking of others and accepting one’s circumstances. Sadako’s story is a perfect introduction to the subject of war for students, and makes clear that in war there is much suffering, and the vast majority of people from all nations simply want to live in peace.” Tuttle Publishing is the publisher of the book, which is now available for 1,320 yen in Japan. Plans are in place for the book to be translated into other languages.

(Originally published on July 6, 2020)