Pink Paper Swans

by Virginia Kroll

Pink Paper Swans
Pink Paper Swans by Virginia Kroll is a unique picture-book which uses origami to unite two people of different ages and cultures.

Set in the inner city with high-rise apartment complexes and chalk-marked hopscotched sidewalks, this story unfolds as slowly as a hot summer day. It begins, “The city summer steamed and sizzled.”

The main character, Janette, is an 8 year old African American girl. Janette is drawn to Mrs Tsujimoto, a Japanese widow, because of her ability to make wonderful things out of paper.

All summer long, Janette sees Mrs Tsujimoto fold cats, frogs, peacocks, and other delightful creations. At the end of the summer, Janette breaches her silence and introduces herself to the elderly lady. In parting, Mrs Tsujimoto gives Janette a pink paper swan; Janette treasures it deeply and keeps it in pristine condition through an entire school year.

As summer returns, Janette wonders where Mrs Tsujimoto has gone to. Unable to dampen her curiosity, Janette finds Mrs Tsujimoto’s apartment and knocks on her door. Inside is a world unknown to the little girl: bonsai plants, painted screen dividers, and a tea set on a low table. Here, Janette learns a little about Japan and its culture. Unfortunately, this is also where Janette learns of Mrs Tsujimoto’s aging hands: she cannot fold paper anymore because she has arthritis.

Janette goes home pondering the change of events: hands that created fork-tailed swallows are now hands that hurt. What will happen to Mrs Tsujimoto’s business of selling origami to bookstores and gift shops? Mulling over the conundrum, Janette finds a solution that will enable Mrs Tsujimoto to create more paper animals and for Janette to satiate her fascination of Japan and the art of paper folding: Janette will be the fingers while Mrs Tsujimoto will be the mind.

In this way, an African American girl becomes friends with a Japanese widow.

Illustrations are in the form of full-color cut-paper collages. Instructions on how to fold a paper swan are included at the end of the book. All photos from

pink paper swans


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