Manley, Curtis. Crane Girl, The. Lin Wang, Illus. Folklore. Shen’s Bks., 02/2017. pp. $18.95. 978-1-885008-57-2. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 1-4.
Prose and haiku poetry are woven seamlessly together in this book to retell the classic Japanese folktale of a young man who rescues a trapped crane. Shortly afterward, a young woman appears at the door of his poor household, and after he and his father take her in, she weaves the finest silk cloth for the older man to sell. Eventually, the old man’s greed becomes his downfall, and the young woman returns to her crane form to leave. Author Curtis Manley creates his own ending, in which the strength of the young man’s love for the girl transforms him into a crane as well, giving this traditionally sad tale a happy ending. Both the text and Lin Wang’s detailed watercolor illustrations are exceptional. The interplay between the evocative prose and haiku from different characters’ points of view creates a lovely, engaging story punctuated by moments of emotional resonance. For example, when the girl first arrives at the house, she and the young man become friends, spending much time together. The accompanying haiku reads, “springtime rain—/ I teach her games/ everyone else knows.” Author’s notes in the back matter describe the folktale traditions of Japan, including which elements of this story were taken from various traditions and which were original. It also introduces Japanese poetic forms, names, and the red-crowned crane pictured in the illustrations.
Renee Ting, Santa Clara PL