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Tree of Cranes Hardcover – October 28, 1991


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 470L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 28, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039552024X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395520246
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.6 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #751,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Heedless of Mama's warnings, a Japanese boy cannot resist playing at an ice-cold pond "filled with carp of bright colors." When he comes home, he is immediately treated for a cold, with a hot bath and rice gruel. His mother's attitude chills him more than the weather, though; he cannot understand why she seems to be ignoring him. Hearing a noise in the garden, the boy spies Mama digging up the pine tree that was planted when he was born. She brings it inside and decorates it with paper cranes and candles. It is a Christmas tree, the first for the boy, and the first in many years for his mother, who tells her son she comes from "a warm place called Ca-li-for-ni-a." The story is a poignant one, illuminated with finely drawn illustrations reflecting the serenity of a Japanese home and the quiet love between mother and son. Say ( The Bicycle Man ; El Chino ), who came to this country from Japan when he was a teenager, again exhibits a laudable sensitivity to Eastern and Western cultures--and to both the differences and the similarities between them. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

When the young Japanese narrator comes home with a cold after playing in a forbidden pond, his mother ``barely looks at him'' and puts him into a hot bath and then to bed without so much as a story. She's busy folding silver paper cranes; later, she brings in the little pine planted when the boy was born and decorates it with candles and the cranes, explaining for the first time how she celebrated Christmas in California, where she grew up. The boy is allowed to light the candles, and next day he receives a gift--a kite he especially wanted--for his first Christmas. Say's exquisitely designed illustrations are as elegant as those for The Boy of the Three-Year Nap (1988, Caldecott Honor). Geometric forms in the austere Japanese architecture provide a serene background for softer lines defining the appealing little boy and his pensive mother. As in Say's other books, there is an uncompromising chill here from parent to child: it's true that the boy has disobeyed, that his mother warms and feeds him, and that in the end they share the tree's beauty; still, her longing for ``peace and quiet'' seems exclusionary, and her cold uncommunicativeness while preparing the lovely tree is at odds with its message. Beautiful, honest, but disturbing. (Picture book. 4-8) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

The language Say employs is simple yet elegant, and his art is the same.
K. Row
I first investigated Allen Say's work when I was teaching kindergarten and working on a master's degree in reading.
Sue E. Ptak
This lovely story introduces us to a traditional Japanese family and to a child who experiences two cultures.
Kona

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book enough to, in pre-Amazon days, put in two special orders (both failed) through Crown Books and finally, after two years, find a children's specialty book store that could get it for me. It is the story of a small boy learning to obey his mother as well as the story of his first Christmas. The book's strength is its astonishing illustrations. The luminous pictures of the family's Japanese home, the small pine tree with the silver origami cranes and candles, and the emotion on the face of the little boy captivate my son, who is not yet two and a half. Even at his age, which is much younger than this book is intended for, he really responds to the poetic text, the relationship between the boy and his mother, his struggle to obey his mother and deal with her disapproval of his misbehavior, and the beauty of the tree of cranes. This is a peaceful and gentle text, and I am grateful that I can finally read my son this story that both helps to build his character and exposes him to the beauty and grace of Japanese form.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kona VINE VOICE on October 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This autobiographical story of author Allen Say's discovery of Christmas is gentle and beautiful. As a little boy in Japan, he wasn't supposed to play near the neighbor's carp pond, but he did, and fell in! Mother was a little mad at him, but she was preoccupied with making origami cranes. She put them on a tree that she brought in from the garden, and explained to her puzzled son that this was called a Christmas tree. (She had lived in California as a girl.) The boy asked for and received a Samurai kite as a Christmas gift. He never forgot that day, because it was the first time he learned about Christmas, and he never played in the carp pond again.

This lovely story introduces us to a traditional Japanese family and to a child who experiences two cultures. The illustrations are quite unique and are almost shiny. The simple text is easy to read and children aged 6-8 love this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Angela on April 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good book to teach students about a mixture of Japanese and American cultures. His mother was from America. She wanted him to know about her traditions in America.
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Format: Hardcover
Tree of Cranes is the story of a young boy who disobeys his mother, plays near the coy pond, and falls in. His mother is distracted that day, because it is Christmas and she is remembering having celebrated the holiday when she lived in California. The boy learns about Christmas for the first time, and also learns to listen to his mother, who loves him very much.

I first investigated Allen Say's work when I was teaching kindergarten and working on a master's degree in reading. I was drawn to his books because I had just completed a unit theme on Japan, and I chose him as the subject of my author study in a children's lit course. It goes without saying that his Caldecott Award winning illustrations are a highlight in all of his books. As is the case with many of his "children's" books, Tree of Cranes is accessible to young children, but also of interest for adults, especially if one reads more than one of Say's books. The theme of multiculturalism and being torn between two different cultures in Tree of Cranes is also present in Tea with Milk and Grandfather's Journey. Taken together, the autobiographical nature of these books make one want to read an actual biography of the author.

Tree of Cranes is a great book for kids of at least kindergarten age through third grade (as I have read it aloud at those grade levels). It will also hold the interest of the adult reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Maria Bronkema on December 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Children enjoyed hearing a story about this boy from Japan celebrate Christmas
as a peace wishing time. I used the book to create bags by folding them like origami in the story.
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By Gelsy Verna on February 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I first checked out this book from our public library, among other books with a Christmas theme. My five-year old daughter loved the story and the pictures, that she asked me to renew it twice. I decided to purchase it for her. We still read it although Christmas has passed. This is the story of a little boy who learns about Christmas (when trees are decorated with lights and ornaments) from his mother who grew up in the Unitied States before coming to Japan where they now live. The illustrations are beautiful, you learn about a number of customs. For example, the connection between oragami and wishes, the food that he little boy eats, that his parents planted a tree to symbolise and as a wish that he lives a long life. They make a snowman, in Japan their snowman has two balls, not three like here in the United States. The book has a timeless quality.
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By K. Row on January 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Say's for quite a few years, and Tree of Cranes doesn't fail to please. One a snowy day one week before the new year, a young boy who's been naughty is perplexed about why his mother has been folding origami cranes and has dug up, potted, and decorated the fir tree his parents planted when he was born. He thinks she's acting out of anger at his misbehavior, but she explains to him that it's because in the country of her childhood this day is called "Christmas."

The language Say employs is simple yet elegant, and his art is the same. You don't have to be interested in "multiculturalism" (what a dreadful word!), Japan, or even Christmas to appreciate the message that days set aside for family and quiet time are the most precious days kids - indeed all of us - have.
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More About the Author

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book -- published in 1972 -- in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.

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