Tree of Cranes

Author and Illustrator:  Allen Say


Two cultures combine in a most interesting and unusual way as a young boy living in Japan learns of Christmas for the first time.  On a gray winter day, our young boy disobeys his mother and catches a chill.  But before being sent to his room, he notices that she has begun folding dozens and dozens of silver paper cranes. When he questions her, she simply replies, “Because I want to make a big wish.”

Her peculiar behavior continues when the young child peers out his window and discovers her digging up a small pine in their snowy garden.  It was the tree she and his father planted at the time of his birth so that his life, too, would live long, like the tree.

When at last the tree is brought into the house and the Mama sets it down, the young boy’s curiosity nags at him.  He asks, “What are you doing with my tree?”  “You’ll see,” she said, setting down the pot.  Then she fetched the silver cranes and some sewing things from the living room.

As Mama kneels by the small tree, she gently explains to her young son about her life before he was born, when she lived in a warm place called California where people celebrated a day called  Christmas.  As she spoke, she threaded the silver cranes on the tree, then added small candles.

Mama held me in her lap.  The cranes turned slowly, flashing candlelight.  There couldn’t be a tree more beautiful than mine, I thought.  Not even in the place where Mama was born. 

Mama did make a big wish on their lovely tree, and our young boy did as well.  But you’ll have to read this sweet story to find out just what those wishes were and if they came true.  I’m sure many people will be making the same wish “Mama” did this year.  It would make for a very Merry Christmas.

Mary Byrne Kline


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