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Crane Boy

Kirkus Review
[Diana] Cohn weaves numerous details about Bhutanese life and culture into her smoothly told story; Youme adds even more with watercolor images in a naïve style that nicely matches Kinga's present-tense narration. … [Crane Boy] gracefully celebrates both a little-known culture and its beloved birds.
The black-necked cranes that return to Kinga's village in Bhutan each winter inspire the schoolboy to convince his classmates and the local monks to create a festival in their honor. This imagined re-creation of the origin of the annual Crane Festival in the Phobjika Valley, a modern celebration and occasion for environmental education, makes a nice connection to children anywhere who love the natural world. Kinga and his classmates are excited to see the cranes arriving outside their schoolroom window. Their teacher builds on their enthusiasm by taking them to a sanctuary to learn more about the birds, whose numbers are dwindling. This inspires Kinga to suggest the festival. They ask the monks, who sponsor the community's sacred dances, to help them compose and perform a dance of their own that emulates the movements of the elegant birds. Cohn weaves numerous details about Bhutanese life and culture into her smoothly told story; Youme adds even more with watercolor images in a naïve style that nicely matches Kinga's present-tense narration. A three-generational family dinnertime scene is especially appealing. Interspersed are images of Bhutanese prayer flags and crane drawings made by schoolchildren during the author and illustrator's visit to that country. The story ends with further information, a map, and photographs. Gracefully celebrates both a little-known culture and its beloved birds.
- August 28, 2015  Visit Website
Foreword Reviews
The soft watercolor illustrations are as graceful as the text … a fascinating, exquisite book.
- December 1, 2015 
Judy Reads Books
Not only is this a charming tale, beautifully told and exquisitely illustrated, it introduces all of us to a fascinating country and culture through the eyes of a child.
Just finished my first draft of my review of the spectacular Crane Boy, on my list of 150 Best Children's Books of 2015. (Note the star — it’s one of my top 50 choices this year.) I am blown away by this book… I can't wait to introduce the book to all my audiences this year.

In October, Kinga, a young boy from a small village in in the Phobjika Valley of Bhutan, wants to be the first to see the black-necked cranes return for the winter. One day, while sitting in his classroom, he hears the loud squawking calls of the birds his people call “trung trung.”

The children rush to the window to see the cranes flying past and circling the monastery’s golden roof. The class visits the crane center to learn about the birds from Kado, an elderly man with a long white beard, whom they call “Caretaker of the Cranes.” Only 203 cranes have come back this year, and though the wetlands where they live have been preserved, Kado tells the children “ . . . we need to find more ways to help them, for they are our sisters and brothers.”

At dinner, Kinga and his family discuss the attributes of the cranes. They bring good luck for the crops, Grandmother says, and Mother adds, “We believe they bring strength to those who love archery.” While at an archery contest with his father, Kinga gets an idea for helping the cranes: what if they hold a Crane Festival in the monastery courtyard where they can perform both traditional and new crane dances for visitors? He and his classmates observe the way the cranes stand on one leg, jump up and down, and flap their wings, after which the children create their own dance to perform in crane costumes at the festival.

Extraordinarily appealing, vibrantly colored watercolors radiate from each page, introducing a place that few of us know anything about, made memorable through Kinga’s eloquent first-person narration.

How many other picture books set in Bhutan are in print? Exactly two, both from obscure publishers. Not only is this a charming tale, beautifully told and exquisitely illustrated, it introduces all of us to a fascinating country and culture through the eyes of a child. There is excellent back matter, including many color photos; information on the Crane Festival (“the first and only festival in Bhutan dedicated to environmental education”), held every year at the Gangtey Monastery; background on Bhutan; facts about the cranes; and a description from the author and illustrator about how they visited Bhutan to do their research for the story.

Of course, you’ll want to locate the country on a globe; you’ll also find many short videos on YouTube.com that show the people and the lush countryside. Most exciting, though, is this recent video of the children’s dance at the Crane Festival: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSLnHH1fog4. Studying endangered animals and asking students what they can do to help? Kinga’s story may inspire them to think globally, act locally. —Judy Freeman, children’s literature consultant and author of The Handbook for Storytelling and The Winners! Handbook
- Judy Freeman, August 16, 2015  Visit Website
School Library Journal
Give this lovely picture book to any child who is looking to change the world for the better.
Kinga is a young Bhutanese boy who eagerly anticipates the black-necked cranes' migration back to the Phobjika Valley—his home—each year. According to Kado, who is called the "Caretaker of the Cranes," fewer birds are migrating back each year. Kinga consults with his family and friends and decides to propose a festival to celebrate the birds' migration and draw attention to their need to be protected. Local monks partner with the schoolchildren to present a new crane dance to the King of Bhutan, as well as the townspeople, which attracts spectators from near and far. Cohn's straightforward text chronicles the fictionalized genesis of this very real festival held in the Kingdom of Bhutan each year, which has boosted awareness of ecologically sound farming practices to include wetlands habitat protection, as well as encouraged ecotourism in the area. Told from Kinga's perspective, the narrative serves as a very real answer to the question children often ask when they encounter an issue larger than themselves: "What can I do?" Landowne's brightly colored illustrations and soft-edged figures serve to reinforce the perspective of the child narrator while capturing the natural beauty of the Bhutanese culture and people. VERDICT Give this lovely picture book to any child who is looking to change the world for the better. —Colleen S. Banick, Westport Public Schools, CT
- Colleen S. Banick, School Library Journal, November 1, 2015  Visit Website
Midwest Book Review
Crane Boy is the beautiful story of a boy in Bhutan who loved the return of the black-necked cranes to his valley each year.
Crane Boy is the beautiful story of a boy in Bhutan who loved the return of the black-necked cranes to his valley each year. To especially honor the black-necked cranes, and to protect and encourage them, the boy, Kinga, decided to help create a special children’s crane dance to celebrate the migrating black-necked cranes, whose numbers have been diminished to 203 in recent years. An ancient Bhutan tradition holds that the trung, or cranes, bring good luck to their crops each year, and strength to the Bhutanese archers. Kinga asks special permission from the monks to begin planning a new festival, to celebrate the cranes with a crane dance performed by children. A monk named Sangay helps the children to begin by observing the cranes so they can dance like cranes. The monks have danced traditional dances for centuries, and many hours of practice are required to learn to dance these dances. However, the children will be encouraged to create their own crane dance, under the supervision of the monks. Kinga and the students work hard observing the cranes, learning the steps, and creating special crane costumes and crane-like movements. A wonderful new Crane festival is danced and performed, and even the King of Bhutan attends, giving his blessing. Kinga is renamed Crane Boy because of his dedication to help create the Crane Festival and dance. Beautiful paintings of Crane Boy and the students learning their Crane dance steps decorate the pages of this amazing book. Special acknowledgements are made of the Crane Festival, held on November 11 each year in Bhutan since 1998, many environmental educators and protectors, and the International Crane Foundation. Crane Boy was made possible by a network of kind Bhutanese teachers, guides, hosts, and families, and also the Royal Society for Protection of Nature in Bhutan.
- Midwest Book Review , November 15, 2015  Visit Website
Booklist Online
This tale of wildlife conservation is narrated by a boy named Kinga, who eagerly awaits the annual return of the black-necked cranes to his Himalayan village. … The illustrations throughout showcase both Bhutanese life (filled with boisterously decorated prayer flags, flamboyant buildings, and lush forests) and the exquisite beauty and strength of the cranes, seen flying in formation and close-up.
This tale of wildlife conservation is narrated by a boy named Kinga, who eagerly awaits the annual return of the black-necked cranes to his Himalayan village. The expert at the village’s crane center explains to Kinga’s class that the crane population is diminishing. The boy hits upon an idea to save the cranes after seeing an archery team perform a cranelike dance to celebrate a victory. Kinga approaches the village’s monks to see if he and his fellow students can develop a crane festival, with a special crane dance, that will awaken interest in saving the birds. The illustrations throughout showcase both Bhutanese life (filled with boisterously decorated prayer flags, flamboyant buildings, and lush forests) and the exquisite beauty and strength of the cranes, seen flying in formation and close-up. The last portion of the book contains photos and information on Bhutan and the Crane Festival, the only Bhutanese festival devoted to ecological education. Readers may also enjoy wildlife activist Alan Rabinowitz’s A Boy and a Jaguar (2014).
- Booklist Online, December 10, 2015  Visit Website

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