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Gail Sakurai (1952-)


Gail Sakurai told SATA that she "always wanted to be a writer, ever since I learned to read as a child. I planned to have my first book published by the time I was thirteen! Things didn't quite work out that way, however. For many years, other interests and needs interfered with writing, but I never lost my love of books. After getting married, holding a variety of jobs, graduating from college, and having two children, I finally returned to writing. My childhood dream came true with the publication of my first book in 1994—only twenty-nine years later than originally planned."

Sakurai described her first book, Peach Boy: A Japanese Legend, as a retelling of a Japanese folktale. "I learned the tale years ago from my Japanese husband, who told it to our two sons as a bedtime story," she said. "When I decided to write for children, it just seemed natural to choose Peach Boy for my first story. I wanted American children to be able to enjoy it as much as Japanese children have for centuries.

"My second book, a biography of Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman astronaut, grew out of my lifelong interest in space exploration. I get the ideas from my books from everywhere—from things I read, from my children, and even from television. I have more ideas than I'll ever have time to use.

"I specialize in writing nonfiction and retelling folktales from many lands. Through reading I developed an interest in other countries and cultures at an early age. I have studied French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese, and have traveled widely.

"The hardest parts of writing are finding the time to write in a busy schedule full of family obligations, and getting started. Once I start, the words usually come quickly, because I have planned them in my head before my fingers ever touch the keyboard.

"The best parts of writing are the sense of accomplishment I feel when I have finished a story to my satisfaction, and when I sell that story to a publisher. I also enjoy meeting my readers and giving presentations at schools and libraries. My advice to aspiring writers is to read. Read everything you can get your hands on!"

Most of Sakurai's books are nonfiction history and biography texts suitable for elementary-age students who want to research famous people or landmarks. Some of her work is part of the "Cornerstones of Freedom" series, published by Children's Press. Sakurai can cover broad topics, such as the founding of the nation in The Thirteen Colonies, or more specific subjects, as in The Jamestown Colony, The Liberty Bell and The Library of Congress. In her School Library Journal review of The Liberty Bell, Margaret C. Howell observed that Sakurai includes many facts about the national icon that might not be known even to adults. Howell praised the book as "useful."

Sakurai has profiled several notable Americans in easy-to-read biographies, from the explorer Ponce de Leó to Paul Revere and Stephen Hawking. These also fall into two series, "Cornerstones of Freedom" and "Picture-Story Biographies." She has also explored the history of Asian Americans in this nation in two books: Asian-Americans in the Old West and Japanese American Internment Camps. The latter title describes how Japanese Americans were rounded up during World War II and forced to live in camps far from home. Carolyn Angus in School Library Journal has found Sakurai's nonfiction work "appropriate for young readers," for its inclusion of photographs, drawings, and chronologies that help children fix events on a particular date.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, August, 1996, Ilene Cooper, review of Stephen Hawking: Understanding the Universe, p. 1897.

School Library Journal, August, 1996, Margaret C. Howell, review of The Liberty Bell, p. 150; September, 1996, Carolyn Angus, review of Stephen Hawking, p. 220.*

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyGail Sakurai (1952-) Biography - Writings, Sidelights - Personal, Addresses, Career, Member