Tree of Cranes: Allen Say

Tree of Cranes

Author/Illustrator: Allen Say

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Publication Year: 1991

Brief Summary: A young mother teaches her little boy (Allen Say) about an American holiday called Christmas and the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree.

Awards, Honors and Prizes:

Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award, 1992 Winner Children’s Literature United States
PEN Center USA Literary Award, 1992 Winner Children’s Lit United States
Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1991 ; Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Children’s Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson
Children’s Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson
Kaleidoscope, A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8, 1994 ; National Council of Teachers of English
Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1991
Notable Children’s Books, 1992 ; Association for Library Service to Children
Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 ; California Department of Education
Sharing Cultures: Asian American Children’s Authors, 2001 ; ALSC American Library Association

Ideas for using this book in classroom or library; brief notes on curriculum connections/content learning standards/Common Core/etc.

  • What are some of the mother’s feelings about America?  How can you tell?  Discuss the word “nostalgia” and “homesickness”.  The mother looks Japanese…why do you think she might be homesick for America?
  • Talk about Japan and its traditions and how these might be different from some of the traditions we have in the U.S.  Japanese people might not celebrate Christmas — why?  what do they celebrate instead?  Do you know of American families that might have different holiday traditions as well?  (e.g. Jewish families don’t celebrate Christmas either!)
  • Survey the class about different holiday traditions that the students hold at home.  Ask students why certain traditions are significant to their family — religious or not.  If students have unique traditions/celebrations, discuss how these might have come about.
  • Read alongside Grandfather’s Journey and Tea with Milk in sequence (Journey, then Tea with Milk, then Tree of Cranes).  Discuss how Allen Say based these books on his family.  His grandfather’s experiences is based on Allen Say’s life; his mom is the child in the first book, the young woman in the second book, and the mom in the third book, in which she taught Say about American Christmases.

Accessed at: Personal Library

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