Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Tree of Cranes

Tree of Cranes

Allen Say
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 1991   ISBN: 978-0395520246

It is wintertime in Japan, and a little boy is playing at the neighbor’s carp pond. He knows he should not be there because his mother is worried that he will fall into the pond and drown. On this day, the carp are sluggish with the cold, and all the little boy gets for his trouble is a “bad chill.”

The little boy is worried that his mother will be angry with him. When he gets home, Mama seems distracted, but not distracted enough not to notice that her son is feverish. She makes him take a bath, gives him rice gruel for lunch, and sends him to bed. She is busy though, busy making paper cranes and digging up a little conifer tree.

Carefully Mama brings the little tree into the house. She has planted it in a blue pot, and soon she starts to decorate the little tree with the paper cranes she made. She explains that this day in the place where she used to live is a special day. It is a day when people decorate trees “with winking lights and small globes of silver and gold.” The people exchange gifts and it is a day of “love and peace.” Now she is going to share this special holiday with her little son for the first time.

This wonderful picture book shows readers how the spirit of Christmas has no regional or cultural boundaries. A family in Japan can appreciate and enjoy the holiday just as a family in America can. Though the little boy’s celebration is simple, it is a memorable and meaningful one all the same.

In this book, Allen Say’s beautiful watercolors and his lyrical text combine to give readers a delightful reading experience.