The Origami Master
by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
The Origami Master by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer is a charming little story about Shima an Origami Master who becomes jealous of a little bird; a bird that can fold origami shapes even more beautiful than his own. To learn from the bird, Shima captures it and locks it in a cage. To his dismay, the bird is silent; it does not sing or fold origami anymore.
One day, while Shima is sleeping, the bird escapes by folding an origami key and using it to unlock the cage. Shima is saddened that his selfishness has forced the bird to leave. He realizes that he derived more pleasure from the bird when it was singing songs and folding paper – when it was free.
Reflecting on this insight, the Master folds a peace-offering that persuades the bird to return to sing and fold with him in their home in the mountains.
Aki Sogabe does an excellent job in bringing the story to life with illustrations reminiscent of classic Japanese wood block engravings, though somewhat simplified to accommodate today’s young audience.
The soft curves of cherry blossoms and the haphazard rambling of bonsai trees are in subtle but striking contrast with the stiff, angular paper models made by Shima. The wonderful mountain landscapes and traditional Japanese elements enhance the story perfectly. The bold strokes and gentle colors of the artwork complement the tone of the story while retaining an unmistakable sensitivity to the innate beauties of nature.
The back of the book has instructions on how to make a paper bird similar to this one.