Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Origami and Haiku inspired by Japanese Artwork

Origami and Haiku inspired by Japanese Artwork

From the editors at Nosy Crow, The trustees of the British Museum
Illustrator:  Nick Robinson 
Poetry and Nonfiction Book
For ages 10 and up
Candlewick Press, 2018   ISBN: 978-1536202731

Over the centuries the Japanese have developed two art forms that are infused with an element of precision that is unique. Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding, and it requires careful attention to detail. If the paper folds in the process are not ‘just so,’ the paper sculpture will not come out as planned.

Haiku is one of the world’s oldest forms of poetry and it too requires a great deal of care so that the short poem contains the right number of phrases, syllables, and lines. It may seem like a simple poetry form, but to create a haiku that flows beautifully, and that captures a moment in time with integrity, takes a lot of thought and sensitivity.

In this marvelous book Japanese paintings that are on display at the British Museum are paired with haiku and origami to give readers of all ages a singular taste of Japanese art. On every page we are presented with a photo of a painting or a woodblock print, a haiku written by a Japanese poet, and directions so that we can create a piece of origami.

The first painting we see is one that many people will be familiar with. It is The Great Wave, a woodblock print that was created by Katsushika Hokusai. In the accompanying Boat haiku, the poet, Yamazaki Sokan, talks about how “the boat is talking / with the shore.” It is easy to imagine, as we look at the woodblock print, that the boats in the image are doing just that. The origami that we are invited to make is a simple boat design that looks not unlike the boats in the print.

In another woodblock print we see a delicate dragonfly sitting on a blade of grass. The haiku that accompanies this print describes the sight of red dragonflies “between the moon coming out / and the sun going in.” The origami on this page is, not surprisingly, a beautiful dragonfly.

At the back of the book readers will find further information about the pictures and haiku that are presented.  They will also find a page full of tips on how to make origami. Last, but not least, there is a block of origami paper, in a variety of colors, that we can use.

This book would make a wonderful gift for anyone who likes art, the written word, and who has an interest in Japan’s rich artistic heritage.