Yoko’s Paper Cranes by Rosemary Wells
When Yoko was very young, she lived in Japan. Her grandmother, Obaasan, showed her cranes in the pond at the end of her garden, and explained how the cranes left during the winter, but returned each year. Yoko’s grandfather, Ojiisan, could fold paper into cranes – and frogs, and many other animals. Ojiisan taught Yoko how to fold paper cranes.
When Yoko was a little older, she left Japan with her parents, and moved to America. The family stayed in touch and sent letters across the ocean to each other every week.
Yoko wanted to give Obaasan a birthday gift, but didn’t have any money for a present. Yoko remembered that Obaasan’s garden would be cold and snowy, and that Obaasan would be waiting for the cranes to return. Yoko’s mother gave her some nice paper, and Yoko folded three cranes just as Ojiisan had taught her. Yoko mailed the cranes to Obaasan in Japan. Obaasan and Ojiisan hung Yoko’s cranes in the kitchen window. Yoko had made the perfect gift.
This is a sweet story of families, and of connecting even across an ocean.
Art activity: try folding a few origami animals with your children. These aren’t as tricky as paper cranes.
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
This is a wonderful story about a girl named Vashti and how she learns about her creative spirit.
Vashti sits angrily in her art classroom after class staring at her blank piece of paper. She thinks she is bad at art, that she can’t draw — so she hasn’t drawn anything at all.
Vashti’s art teacher talks with her in a friendly way, and encourages her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.”
And Vashti does. She takes a marker and makes an angry jab at the paper. “There!” she says. The art teacher studies Vashti’s paper, then quietly asks her to sign it. Vashti does.
And that is the beginning of Vashti’s journey. The next week Vashti finds that the art teacher has hung her dot (angry marker jab) in a frame above the teacher’s desk. Vashti grumps to herself a bit, and decides she can make a better dot than the one in the frame.
Vashti starts painting. She experiments with dots in different colors. Then she discovers she can make new colors by mixing the ones in the watercolor paint box. She makes huge dots. She makes a dot by painting everything except the dot – leaving a paper-colored dot. Vashti happily finds the creative spirit in herself.
The school has an art show – and Vashti has many of her dots in the show. A younger boy approaches her and says: “You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.” Vashti tells him she bets he can draw. Then:
“Vashti smiled. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. “Show me.”
The boy’s pencil shook as he drew his line.
Vashti stared the boy’s squiggle. And then she said….