|Eleanor Coerr first visited Japan in 1949. Her job was to interview the Japanese people and report their experiences after the war for the Ottawa Journal. Her youthful enthusiasm for this assignment nearly resulted in defeat, as she was unable to find anyone who could speak fluent English. Rather than return home without a story, she gained permission to live on a farm in the Tottori area, where she stayed for a year and established a lifelong friendship with the family.
She stayed on in Japan for three years and travelled widely. Shocked by the horror of the aftermath of the atom bombs, she wrote newspaper articles and a book for children.
Eleanor returned to Japan in the sixties and was amazed to see Hiroshima completely rebuilt, including a lovely Peace Park with a statue of Sadako Sasaki festooned with thousands of paper cranes. She was inspired by Sadako’s story and, after another year, obtained her diary which she used as a background for her book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, which was first published in the US in 1977. The Australian edition was published in 1981 and the beautiful picture book Sadako, illustrated by Ed Young, was published in Australia in 1985. Mieko and the Fifth Treasure was published in Australia in 1995 to coincide with Eleanor Coerr’s visit.
Inspired by Sadako’s story, paper cranes are folded by school children all over the world and sent to Hiroshima for Peace Day.