Book Review: The Paper Crane

In this retelling of a Japanese folktale by artist Molly Bang, an old man brings magic and joy to a quiet restaurant when he pays for his meal with an origami crane.  (Grade level 2+.)

The Paper Crane

The Paper Crane by Molly Bang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bang’s version of this Japanese folktale captures multiculturalism in the best way. The three main characters are clearly Japanese, as is the origami crane at the center of the story. The other characters are a diverse bunch and – my favorite detail of all – the restaurant owned by the main character serves Western food like garden salad and layer cake, with nary a chopstick in sight. It’s a subtle lesson, reminding us that minorities can simultaneously embrace some aspects of their heritage without being ghettoized into a needless representation of *all* mainstream expectations.

Bang’s artistic choices also stand out here, as she uses dimensional paper collage to illustrate a story about the power of a piece of paper art. The crane itself begins as the well-known origami figure, before becoming something more within the story … but remaining a paper crane from the perspective of the reader, a nice visual example of what the word “irony” technically means.

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