Tree of Cranes
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Tree of Cranes

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  269 ratings  ·  41 reviews
As a young Japanese boy recovers from a bad chill, his mother busily folds origami paper into delicate silver cranes in preparation for the boy's very first Christmas.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published October 28th 1991 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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Tree of Cranes is a great book for helping my kindergarten students step out of their common understandings of Christmas and see the holiday from a new perspective. Set in Japan, we were able to have discussions about elements of traditional Japanese architecture (including tatami mats; futons; narrow, deep bathtubs; and showering right on the bathroom floor), as well as the wearing of kimonos and the traditional Japanese art of origami, but more importantly, we were able to engage in a conversa...more
Xiaohui Yang
Say drew this book from the memory of his first Christmas in Japan. It is another piece of Say’s autobiographical books, which he is famous for. From the first illustration of the carp pond, which was actually a big goldfish hatchery next to his old childhood house, I was once again amazed at Say’s exquisite skills as an illustrator. Every detail was exactly caught by Say’s painting brush: the reflections on water, the ripples made by little Say, the color change of water surface, etc. The scatt...more
This is an excellent Christmas book. My son really enjoyed it.

We live in Japan and it does not depict modern Japan, though. My son understands this because he sees all the Christmas decorations here. But Americans kids need to be told that this story in this book is from many decades ago. Nowadays, Japanese moms do not wear kimono around the house and never decorate Christmas trees with origami cranes. Little boys nowadays are for more likely to ask for a Wii than for a kite.

Warning: At the end...more
Madison Danek
This book is a great book to teach the lesson of giving and the real meaning of Christmas. The little boy’s mother realizes his Christmas is extremely important and wants to make it special for him even though he cannot celebrate it normally. She brings him a tree from outside, and then takes the time to make and give him all of the origami paper cranes. Teaching the reader about the true meaning of Christmas; giving to others without expecting something in return. I really enjoy this book and...more
Say is my favorite author/illustrator for all things Japanese. My husband served a mission in Japan, so he always enjoys this type of story. In this tale, the little boy disobeys his mother and end up catching a cold. When he gets home he is sent straight to bed, but is mother is preoccupied and he can’t understand her strange behavior. Finally she gathers origami cranes, candles and a little tree and tells him a story he will never forget.
My kids were head over heels for this book - maybe because of the Christmas connection.

It's not *quite* as good as Grandfather's Journey to me (hence 4 stars rather than 5) but they do flow together nicely and the kids totally picked up on the connections (the mama here is the daughter there).

They've asked me to buy more Allen Say books for the classroom. :)
Allen Say is a master watercolorist. This quiet book shows us the magic of family and love in another culture. 1027 words, book level 2.6, lower grades.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Say tells the story of his first Christmas, when he was a boy in Japan. Serious. Thoughtful. Ages 6-10.
The celebration of holidays is a big part of any culture, defining how one comes to think of each special day on the calendar throughout the year, so it stands to reason that vast differences in the way holidays are observed would be one of the hard parts of living away in a foreign country. For those residing in Japan of a certain era, the idea of Christmas would have been a strange one, perhaps even to children with a mother who grew up in the United States celebrating Christmas before moving...more
In this beautifully written and illustrated book set in Japan, a young boy catches a cold while looking for fish in his neighbor's pond. His mother takes care of him when he comes back inside, but she is distracted and preoccupied. After folding several origami cranes and digging up a small tree from the family's yard, she tells him about some of the Christmas traditions in her homeland, the United States, where many families celebrate Christmas. As is the case for so many of Allen Say's books,...more
This happens to be a very interesting cross-cultural book. All the while the boy is in trouble, the pictures do not seem to give any indication to the American background of his mother. I had no idea what was going on until the very end. It is quite the confusing book, and nothing a reader expects to happen, will happen (unless you’re a very abstract reader, perhaps). The pictures, while very life-like, have a strange color and “drawnness” to them. By that, I mean that they still seem incapable...more
Jessica Maynard
This is a good book to read at Christmas. In this book, a young boy in Japan catches a cold ans has to spend time in his room. His mother goes to the garden and digs up the pine tree that she planted when he was born. The mother places the tree in his room and decorates it with origami cranes that she made. The mother explains why she is decorating a tree and informs her son about the American traditions. She tells him about California and growing up. This book represents the young boys first 'C...more
A young boy disobeys his mother and goes to play near a pond. When he returns home, his mother is clearly upset and sends the boy to take a warm bath. When the boy gets out of bed, he finds his mother folding paper cranes and decorating a pine tree. She shares with him a holiday tradition that she learned growing up in Japan.

This is a beautifully illustrated book that address some universal Christmas themes: peace, generosity, and kindness.

Teaching ideas:
Making inferences - The mother never say...more
Judi Paradis
A really interesting Christmas book. A Japanese boy comes home from school chilled from playing in a forbidden pond. His mother sends him to his room to recover (and to think about how he should behave). While he is there, she begins decorating a tree with beautiful origami cranes. Finally he emerges and she tells him about a day she remembers from when she lived in the U.S. when everyone is kind to one another, people decorate trees to make them even more beautiful, and gifts are given to loved...more
This is the story of a little boy in Japan who disobeyed his mother and caught a cold. Then she acted strangely towards him all day and he didn't know why. In the end she told him it was Christmas-a day for making wishes-in the country she'd come from (America). She wished he'd not disobey her again.
I don't know about this one. It was sweet, but maybe just too abstract. The simple writing did give a Japanese feel to the story. My 6 and 3-year-old certainly didn't get what the point was. I did s...more
Keely Wells
Tree of Cranes by Allen Say is a story about a little boy in Japan who learns about American Christmas tradition. He gets into trouble with his mother and is sent straight to bed. This would be a great book to read to young students because they can get a good culture view on other cultures. Kids would also love this book because it is about Christmas time and having your family around a tree and reading a story so it can bring children a lot of memories. This book was very colorful and lively a...more
Feb 02, 2013 Dolly rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a sweet, but poignant tale about a mother's almost-desperate need to bring a bit of Christmas to her son. The story is enlightening and shows a bit of the contrast between two cultures. The illustrations are just as good as we've come to expect from Allen Say, and we enjoyed reading this book together. We will certainly look for more of his books at our local library.
This was an exceptional book. It really brought up the issue of cultural education from another point of view, that of a Japanese mother teaching her son about an American custom, namely celebrating Christmas. It was a good book and I'd be open to sharing it with an audience of children as a means of opening a discussion of cultural differences and mutual respect. Also it's an unusual point of view for a Christmas story, one that would interest children.
Natalie Quinn
Tree of Cranes is a beautiful book! This would be great book for teachers to read around Christmas time. In this story the Japanese mother tells her son about the American tradition of Christmas. It shows students what life is like for a young Japanese boy and also gives some insight to what traditions Japanese children experience. It would be a great conversation starter to talk about how different cultures are different, and the same.
Say creates another world for us to step into, this time feeling at home in Japan but also the mother's connection to her past celebrating Christmas in California. Say's interiors dominate this story, but the final panel, an exterior with a snowman standing silently outside a lighted window is gorgeous -- the light emanating from the window seems to glow off the page.
This is a great chrostmas picture book to read. The little boy disobeys his mother and end up catching a cold. When he gets home he is sent straight to bed, but is mother is preoccupied and he can’t understand her strange behavior. Finally she gathers origami cranes, candles and a little tree and tells him a story he will never forget.
A young boy recovers from an illness while his mother makes his first tree of cranes for his first christmas. This is a great book for kids that are in america for the first time and are uncertain about the holidays that are celebrated. It is also good to show children that their family will always be there for them.
Rusty Gregory
"When I was not yet old enough to wear long pants, Mama always worried that I might drown in a neighbor's pond."

The illustrations in this book are awesome! Honestly, the story is lacking. I kept thinking it was going somewhere different. There was this serious set up for something very different.
Kellee Hao
Sometimes not everyone and everywhere celebrate Christmas like most people do. Sometimes when you move, you have to adapt to the community's culture in, but sometimes you don't like it. This book talks about inventive ways you can make Christmas more lively at home, even without a Christmas tree.
Lynn Diane
I borrowed this book from the library of the first grade teacher I work with at E. G. King. It's a touching story, beautifully illustrated, and it reminds me very much of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. So much to recommend in this book. I loved the mother's devotion to her child.
I adore this book. Beautiful pictures and a simple,very touching story. As I lived in Japan and I also celebrate Christmas, this book ties the two cultures together in such a poignant way I bought the book to read to my kids at Christmas every year.
Stunning art, but some parts of the story were confusing to me. This may entirely be a reflection on me and not on the author, but it messed with my enjoyment of the book. Would go great with Allen Say's GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY.
The mother of a Japanese boy tells him how she used to celebrate Christmas in America. Then she helps him decorate a tree with origami cranes. Say's illustrations are perfect, lush and spare at the same time.
Meg McGregor
As a young Japanese boy recovers from a bad chill, his mother busily folds origami paper into delicate silver cranes in preparation for the boy's very first Christmas.

A heartwarming story!
Otaku Okaasan
I'm a little biased on this because it uses the word Christmas other than that it would be a 5 star. This is really a great book and I love the idea for the Yule tree with paper cranes!
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Allen Say is one of the most beloved artists working today. He is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal for GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, and also won a Caldecott Honor and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (written by Dianne Snyder). Many of Allen’s stories are derived from his own experiences as a child. His other books include THE BICYCLE MAN, TEA WITH MILK, and TREE OF...more
More about Allen Say...
Grandfather's Journey Drawing from Memory Tea with Milk Kamishibai Man The Bicycle Man

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