We're studying Japan and Korea in my grade 7 social studies class and this week, among other things, we've been talking about the atomic bomb. Yesterday I thought it would be a good idea to read Eleanor Coerr's Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes aloud to my students. Since I was in 4th grade the last time I read that book, I had forgotten just how sad it is. It's probably the saddest kids' book I've ever come across, after Charlotte Graeber's Mustard. So anyway, I got to the end, where it reads
The next time she awoke, the family was there. Sadako smiled at them. She was part of that warm, loving circle where she would always be. Nothing could ever change that.
Already lights were dancing behind her eyes. Sadako slid a thin, trembling hand over to touch the golden crane. Life was slipping away from her, but the crane made Sadako feel stronger inside.
She looked at her flock hanging from the ceiling. As she watched, a light autumn breeze made the birds rustle and sway. They seemed to be alive and flying out through the open window. How beautiful and free they were! Sadako sighed and closed her eyes.
She never woke up (Coerr 63).
and of course I had tears streaming down my face like a goddamn girl. Gah! I'm 6' tall, 240 lbs with a shaved head and a chinstrap beard and I'm crying like a baby in front of a bunch of preteens. All I could think to say was, "Sorry, guys, It's a sad book." It's part of my nature to be a sentimental mangina on the best of days, but I'm good at covering it up with my relatively scary appearance, deep voice and witty faux cynicism.
But not yesterday.
I'm not a "new age" guy. I'm not "emo." In fact, my wife can probably testify as to how insensitive I am. But I'm easily moved to tears by literature. That part in Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" when a dying Aricte cries, "Mercy, Emilie!" gets me every time. Never before, however, have I gotten all weepy in front of a class full of kids.
I guess the point of this story is twofold: a) I'm a big, bald pussy; and b) If you're going to read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes to a grade 7 class, practice in private and make sure you can get through it first.