Paper Boat, Paper Bird by David Almond

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

The title suggests the aspect of the novel that is, like the art of origami, delightfully creative. This Japanese skill is extremely precise and delicate in its essential simplicity. Special papers are carefully folded to create unlimited possibilities. In this book for children, it is a bird and a boat.

Mina is on a bus with her mother in Kyoto. It is crowded, but she finds a seat next to a lady who is engrossed in making a little boat with her origami paper. She becomes aware of Mina’s fascination, and shows her how to make a bird.

This brief and happy episode of her visit to the city highlights one of the wonders travelling can bring, becoming aware of something completely new and experiencing aspects of a culture.

Later, Mina writes a message on her bird, and on the boat, and sets them free to float away. In a lovely coincidence, Miyako, a Japanese boy, discovers them while swimming.

Mina continues to enjoy the beauty and excitement of Kyoto with her mother and when they cross at a busy intersection, she senses Miyako as he, too, crosses there.

It’s a fast moving, connected world now. So many children have the good fortune to travel to different countries, not just for holidays, but because parents work abroad.

Paper Boat, Paper Bird is a gentle celebration of the magic of travel in a strange country.

Mina learns some basic Japanese words, visits some important places like the Golden Temple, and meets some kind and friendly people. The differences, such as the compact houses, neat and uncluttered, are interesting and even exciting to a girl who has grown up in an English suburb. She enjoys it all.

Her story is simply and charmingly told, enhanced by Kirsti Beautyman’s drawings. They are ideally suited to the Japanese theme. Red is the only vibrant colour which conveys both the excitement and magical quality of Mina’s Kyoto visit and her pleasure at discovering origami.

Travel Agents tell us there is enormous interest in Japan. In fact, it is the premier destination for international tourists once their borders are completely reopened.

David Almond’s book is a fine introduction to a trip there for a child.  He is celebrated internationally, published in 40 countries, and winner of multiple awards. In this small book his outstanding talent is obvious, and it is not surprising that he is a much-loved author.

Origami, a much-admired skill in Japan and around the world, is a focus in Paper Boat, Paper Bird.

Who can forget the amazing effort of thousands of children from many countries making paper cranes and sending them to Hiroshima.  A beautiful symbolic gesture.

Paper Boat, Paper Bird


by David Almond


ISBN 978 144496 327 4

$19.99; 112pp



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