top of page

The Picture Book Buzz

The Crane Girl - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I enjoy many aspects of Japanese culture and their traditions, having visited the country a number of times. I am familiar with this folktale of a shape shifting crane and I was immediately captivated by the cover and Curtis Manley's description of the book during a local SCBWI PAL event. He mentioned that he had changed the ending and I couldn't wait to see what he had done. The result is amazingly touching and beautiful, especially when paired with Lin Wang's illustrations.

The Crane Girl

Adapted by Curtis Manley

Illustrated by Lin Wang

Publisher: Shen's Books (2017)

Ages 5-8



Japanese folktale, haiku, animals, diversity, empathy, kindness, and friendship.

Synopsis (From Barnes & Noble):

While gathering firewood, Yasuhiro comes upon an injured crane hidden in the snow. He rescues and comforts the bird, then watches it fly away. The next night, a mysterious young girl arrives at Yasuhiro’s home seeking shelter from the cold. The boy and his father welcome the girl, named Hiroko, to stay with them. But when Hiroko notices that Yasuhiro’s father is struggling to earn money, she offers to weave silk for him to sell. After the fabric fetches a good price, the boy’s father becomes impatient for more silk, and his greed has a life-changing effect on them all. Lyrical storytelling deftly interwoven with original haiku create a magical adaptation of popular Japanese folktales—an inspirational story of friendship and the power of kindness to transform lives.

Opening Lines:

from the darkness

an animal's sudden cry -

its fear, and mine

Yasuhiro dropped his armload of firewood to follow the sound across the sharp buckwheat stubble of the Landlord's field. He almost stepped on the crane, nearly invisible where it lay in the snow. A trap held one foot, but the crane looked unharmed. As Yasuhiro knelt, the bird closed its eyes and shuddered.

cold hard trap -

he sets me free

with warm hands

Why I liked it:

I appreciate the stoke of genius, as well as the talent and hard work required for Curtis Manley to sprinkle haiku poems, throughout the retelling of this Japanese folktale, to illuminate the character's thoughts. Although a form of poetry uniquely Japanese, it provides tantalizing ideas of ways to use it, or other poetic devises, to accomplish character development in other fractured or retold tales.

One of my favorites is:

the last time

I will touch his cheek -

cold tears

The traditional elements of the repayment of a kindness, a greedy man, and the breaking of a promise remain, even though Curtis changes the main character of the folktale to a child. This alteration, allows Curtis to highlight kindness and friendship to both other humans and animals, rather than focusing primarily on a adult's greed and broken promise. Lin Wang's illustrations are luminescent and enhance the tale's new ending. Additionally, the illustrations expose children to the differences in traditional Japanese dress, housing, and art. Overall, it is a very special, diverse book.


- write haiku poems (see author's notes at books end); and

- learn more about the Red-Crowned Cranes ( and measures to protect this special bird.

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Follow Me

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • 1473394675_goodreads
  • Pinterest



bottom of page