Tree of Cranes

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Do you remember your very first Christmas?

Me neither.

But what if you did? What sights, smells, emotions might you attribute to that first magical day?

In Tree of Cranes, a Japanese boy recounts his first Christmas.

His mother was raised in the United States and celebrated Christmas growing up there. She recalls it was a magical day of peace and quiet. Wanting to share that with her son, she secretly sets up a Christmas tree. She gives him the gift of quiet instead of scolding when he visits the neighbor’s forbidden pond on a cold day and consequently gets sick. By digging up and his bonsai tree (planted on the day of his birth), she makes a Christmas tree. She decorates it with paper crane ornaments and small candles.

The boy awakes the next day to find his wished for Samurai kite. And his gift to his mother? The promise never to return to the pond he had visited the previous day.

It is refreshing to find a Christmas book about Asians and celebrating Asian culture. Almost every exquisite illustration includes Japanese culture: mattresses on the floor, origami, bonsai, kimonos.

Speech Therapy Ideas:

1. Articulation /r/ blends : Children who have almost perfected their /r/ sounds, but need a little bit of extra practice, can work on words such as “crane, tree, Christmas”.

2. Comparing and Contrasting : Compare things in the story with things in your own home. What is the mother wearing? What do you wear? Where is the boy sleeping? Where do you sleep? What does the Christmas tree look like and how did they get it? What does your Christmas tree look like and how do you get it?

Learn more about Japanese culture here.

3. Retelling the story : Try to re-tell the story so that an unfamiliar listener can understand the characters, events, and main ideas. If needed, use the illustrations.

4. Directions : Have your child follow multi-step directions for making a paper crane. Use tutorials here or here. After practicing several times, have your child re-tell the directions to someone else to teach them how to make the origami.

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  1. I want to wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas!

  2. Sounds like a good find. My husband loves oragami. I know he can’t wait until Cavett is just a little older to try it out.

  3. Nick loves oragami…I will have him try this!!

    Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas….don’t think I will be around much these next couple of days:)

    Happy Holidays!


  4. The paper cranes made me think of Wentworth Miller. *sigh* (It’s a Prison Break thing.)

    But the book sounds very good. I love when you introduce me to a new one!

  5. I’ve always wanted to learn Oragami! I think it’s so neat looking…

  6. I love your ideas! This book looks so beautiful..My mom is a children’s literature professor, so I’ll have to show this to her! ๐Ÿ™‚ This little boy at my church loves oragami..he put up a huge Christmas tree at his mom’s house that has over 100 of his creatures on it! He has one made out of 75 pieces of paper..AMAZING!

  7. Thank you for this truly wonderful review!


  8. Look for other great books by the same author. His stories are wonderful and always wonderfully illustrated.

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