YOKO'S PAPER CRANES by Rosemary Wells


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Origami cranes take metaphoric flight from West to East in this tale of Yoko the kitten's earnest efforts to maintain a connection to her grandparents in Japan. Yoko's Obaasan (grandmother) loves the cranes that inhabit her pond in the summer, and her Ojiisan (grandfather) teaches her how to fold paper to make cranes. When Yoko, now removed to the US, needs to send her Obaasan a birthday gift in winter, she sends three origami cranes and a promise that she, too, will soon "come back to Japan, just like the cranes." Wells's (Bunny Party, above, etc.) illustrations are utterly gorgeous, incorporating gold leaf and decorated Japanese papers into her trademark paintings of cuddly animals. The scenes in Japan show a distinct Japanese influence, with gloriously foamy, sculptural waves rising out of the ocean. One inspired double-page spread depicts the mail plane winging its way from a pastel California (iconographically identified by skyscrapers, orange groves, palm trees, and a parking lot) to a deliciously snowy Japan, shown simply as a snowy mountain and curling wave towering over a small wooden house on its own island. Given the stunning illustrations, it's a shame that the story doesn't hold its own. Well-meaning and earnest, it lacks entirely the humor and warmth of its predecessor, and there is little beauty of language to compensate for the humdrum narrative. Perhaps this can be partly explained by an attempt to emulate the austere Japanese text forms as well as illustration, but even if this is the case, the text as a whole falls depressingly flat. Still, Yoko's fans will be pleased to see a new story, and may be so dazzled by the illustrations that they will not notice the weaknesses. (Picture book. 3-7)

ISBN: 1423119843
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Hyperion