The Boy in the Garden
written and illustrated by Allen Say
(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children) 2010
Source: Orange County Public Library
Jiro and his father are visiting Mr. Ozu to wish him a happy new year. While his father converses with Mr. Ozu, young Jiro peers into the garden and sees a crane. Jiro is mesmerized since his mother has read the story of The Grateful Crane. In the story, a crane is set free by a young woodcutter. As a reward, the crane transforms into a beautiful young woman and marries the woodcutter. Jiro carefully approaches the crane only to be interrupted by howls of laughter from his father and Mr. Ozu. The crane is not real and the men are greatly amused by Jiro's actions. The laughter embarrasses Jiro so much that he runs and runs until he can no longer see Mr. Ozu's house. Tired from running, Jiro sees a small cottage that he recognizes as the woodcutter's house. In the house, Jiro finds that perhaps Mama's story is real after all.
If you are teaching about the differences between fantasy and reality, find a copy of The Boy in the Garden. Allen Say blurs the line between the two which will make for great discussions in your classroom. The ending opens the door to the question of whether the events actually happened or were all in Jiro's imagination. Students will also connect to Jiro and his feelings of humiliation when made fun of by adults. I'm always pleased to read a new book by Allen Say and this one doesn't disappoint.
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