sadako/kokeshi friendship dolls

sadakoSadako by Eleanor Coeer, illustrated by Ed Young (1993).

Have you heard the story of Sadako Sasaki? Her statue is in Hiroshima. She was just two when the atom bomb fell in her city, but years later at the age of twelve, she developed leukemia.

But the story Eleanor Coerr tells is so much more than that summary. And Ed Young’s  pastels are vivid and dreamy, and sometimes eery too.



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Sadako sees the world in different, unusual ways. She loves to run. She believes in good luck signs and hope. She has a best friend, Chizuko. “The two were as close as two pine needles on the same twig.” Chizuko reminds Sadako of the thousand paper crane legend when she visits her at the hospital. In fact, she folds her best friend’s very first origami crane from gold paper.

“…If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her well again.”

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Sadako didn’t finish 1,000 origami cranes, but her friends finished the whole flock on her behalf after her death so she could be buried with them. And while Sadako was in the hospital, her classmates sent her a Kokeshi doll. Both cranes and doll are lovely gifts and symbols of enduring friendship.


 Vintage wooden Kokeshi dolls. (image:  PopCulturelle on etsy) 

And there are all kinds of new versions too. Momiji makes very contemporary Kokeshi dolls. Bonus: there’s a slit at the base with a tiny notecard on which to write a message to a friend, which makes them that much more special. I particularly like this book club collection!


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The curiosity doll is pretty wonderful too.




Hello Clementine on etsy sells an inexpensive tutorial to make all six of the adorable Kokeshi characters below. You’ll need some clay and paint, but the satisfaction of making one of these? So worth it. (Also, Harry Potter Kokeshi! Genius.)il_570xN.264009475

Or you could make your Kokeshi  more whimsical and out of everyday objects, the way Emilie Guelpa at Griottes did. 



(more images here.)


And let’s not forget the amazing line of Kokeshi everything from Chronicle Books, by Annelore Parot!

The takeaway from Sadako’s story is the hope and wish for peace as well as friendship even in the most troubling times. So, to creative Kokeshi dolls given in friendship!

(p.s. This post also makes me think of Kirby Larson’s novel, The Friendship Doll,  a good historical read.)

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4 Responses to sadako/kokeshi friendship dolls

  1. Such a lovely post, Danielle. The Griottes ‘found’ dolls are just perfect! Thanks so much for including me.

    • Thanks for checking this out, Kirsty! Your creative, contemporary Kokeshi dolls made my day when I found them! If I had to choose, the one with piled up purple hair is my favorite. Best of luck to you.

  2. Kristian says:

    Oh, I love this so much. Your blog shares such lovely picture books, but this post in particular has my teacher’s brain a-going! Ideas for a classroom!

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