The Boy in the Garden

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There was a story that Mama read to Jiro:

Once, in old Japan, a young woodcutter lived
alone in a little cottage. One winter day he
found a crane struggling in a snare and set it

When Jiro looks out the window into Mr. Ozu’s
garden, he sees a crane and remembers
that story.

Much like the crane, the legend comes to
life—and, suddenly, Jiro finds himself in a
world woven between dream and reality.
Which is which?

Allen Say creates a tale about many things
at once: the power of story, the allure of
the imagined, and the gossamer line between
truth and fantasy. For who among us hasn’t
imagined ourselves in our own favorite
fairy tale?
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Editorial Reviews

Roger Sutton
Reading a book by Allen Say feels like looking through a succession of windows while someone quietly tells you a story—often a small but resonating incident from a person's life that demonstrates bravery of one kind or another.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Caldecott Medalist Say (Grandfather's Journey), his work always painstaking and poignant, ventures tentatively into the realm of fantasy. He paints a boy named Jiro, set free to wander in the vast Japanese garden of his father's wealthy friend Mr. Ozu. In the garden's teahouse, Jiro meets a beautiful woman who promises to weave something for him, just like the crane wife in the mournful Japanese fairy tale his mother has read him. In the story, a woodcutter's marriage is ruined by his curiosity and greed. The thread of Jiro's story, though, veers eerily back and forth between the real and surreal ("My, you have a wonderful imagination," the woman tells Jiro), and toys seductively with Jiro's puzzlement as he enters deeper into his own fantasy ("I'm the woodcutter," he thinks, setting off into a snowy dream morning. "I'll sell firewood and buy things to eat"). Just as sensitively, Say portrays Jiro's uncertainty in the face of his father and Mr. Ozu's hearty bluster. Pale colors and expanses of empty space contribute to the feeling of haunted charm. Did Jiro dream? Possibly-- or possibly not. Ages 5–7. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A gently unsettling tale of the power of the imagination."—The Horn Book, starred review  

"Say is at the height of his artistic achievement in this tale of a little boy named Jiro and the powerful impact that a story has on him....This is a beautiful, moving, quietly mysterious read, ripe with possibilities for interpretation and contemplation."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Caldecott Medalist Say (Grandfather's Journey), his work always painstaking and poignant, ventures tentatively into the realm of fantasy....Pale colors and expanses of empty space contribute to the feeling of haunted charm. Did Jiro dream? Possibly—or possibly not."—Publishers Weekly, starred review  

"Multilayered and compelling."—The Bulletin

Praise for other Allen Say books:

"Aficionados of Say’s tranquil work will find both the message and the delivery deeply satisfying."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Kamishibai Man
"The quietly dramatic, beautifully evocative, tale contains a cliffhanger of its own, along with exquisite art in the style of Kamishibai picture cards that will attract even the most jaded kid away from the TV screen to enjoy a good, good book."—Booklist, starred review
Tea with Milk
"A thoughtful and poignant book that will appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly our nation’s many immigrants who grapple with some of the same challenges as May and Joseph, including feeling at home in a place that is not their own."—School Library Journal, starred review
Tree of Cranes
"Tree of Cranes is the achievement of a master in his prime, one of the best picture books of this or any year."—The Horn Book, starred review
The Sign Painter
"In perhaps his best work to date . . . Say subtly and ingeniously blends a feeling of nostalgia with a hard-hitting immediacy. . . The images and the boy’s passion as an artist will remain with [readers]."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Grandfather’s Journey
Winner of the Caldecott Medal
"Flawless in his executions, Say has chronicled three generations of a family whose hearts have been divided between two nations."—School Library Journal, starred review

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Say begins his story by retelling the tale that young Jiro's mother reads to him, the traditional "Grateful Crane" or "Crane Wife." When Jiro's father takes him to visit a famous garden at the home of Mr. Ozu, he sees a crane there. Although it is only a statue, Jiro is reminded of the old story. He comes upon what he thinks is a woodcutter's house. Inside he finds a kimono to put on. When he answers a knock at the door, he is surprised to see a woman, who enters and makes him soup. He is sure she is the Crane Woman. The next day he wants to buy her something to eat. But she does not want him to go. She goes into the next room and begins weaving despite his protests, for he remembers the sad ending of the story. But he is suddenly awakened from this apparent dream by his father and Mr. Ozu. His father admits that the crane looks real. Jiro says it is only a statue but... Say uses watercolors to create his full-page naturalistic scenes of the characters, buildings, and garden. Jiro is a curious, attractive youngster. The woman in her white robe and long black hair is convincingly magical. The visuals add significantly to the tone and emotions of the fantasy. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Say takes the ancient legend about a crane magically transformed into a woman through an act of kindness and adds another layer of mystery to the story. A brief retelling of "the Grateful Crane," as told to Jiro by his mother, sets the scene. The rest of the book traces the child and his father's visit to Mr. Ozu, who has a "famous garden and many treasures in his house." Intrigued by the life-size bronze crane, Jiro investigates first the statue and then a small seemingly empty cottage on the property. When a tall, lovely Japanese lady appears, he finds himself playing out the tale. Is she the crane personified? Is he the woodcutter from the story? With the arrival of his father to take him home, he is left to ponder: Was this just a dream? The care and subtlety the artist employs to make the contemporary twist believable, in both text and illustration, is extraordinary. A final magnificent image depicts a crane flying through the night sky beneath a full moon. Carefully chosen words mesh seamlessly with dramatic and effective paintings, bringing both energy and tranquility to carry the story to its thought-provoking ending.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
Kirkus Reviews

Say is at the height of his artistic achievement in this tale of a little boy named Jiro and the powerful impact that a story has on him. It opens with a retelling of "The Crane Wife," with a heading telling readers that this is "the story that Mama read to Jiro."He recalls the tale about "the crane that the woodcutter saved from the trap" when he sees a crane statue in a family friend's garden and then imagines a teahouse on the property's outskirts to be the woodcutter's cottage. A woman arrives, prompting Jiro to ask if she is the Crane Woman, but she just smiles, feeds him and cares for him, praising his imagination. A series of dreamlike paintings done in the Caldecott winner's customarily precise and beautifully lit watercolors blurs the lines between reality and fantasy and limns Jiro's conflicted emotions as he seems to enter the story that bonds him to his mother, only to awaken to his father's voice telling him it is time to return home. This is a beautiful, moving, quietly mysterious read, ripe with possibilities for interpretation and contemplation. (Picture book. 5-8)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547760483
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/18/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD480L (what's this?)
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

Allen Say was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1937. He dreamed of becoming a cartoonist from the age of six, and, at age twelve, apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. For the next four years, Say learned to draw and paint under the direction of Noro, who has remained Say's mentor. Say illustrated his first children's book -- published in 1972 -- in a photo studio between shooting assignments. For years, Say continued writing and illustrating children's books on a part-time basis. But in 1987, while illustrating THE BOY OF THE THREE-YEAR NAP (Caldecott Honor Medal), he recaptured the joy he had known as a boy working in his master's studio. It was then that Say decided to make a full commitment to doing what he loves best: writing and illustrating children's books. Since then, he has written and illustrated many books, including TREE OF CRANES and GRANDFATHER'S JOURNEY, winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal. He is a full-time writer and illustrator living in Portland, Oregon.

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