Origami, Poems and Pictures

Combining three things I love, this is the perfect book for me, but I wasn't quite expecting the reaction it got from my class when we opened the big, brown envelope! They were completely captivated and a group of children asked -begged!- to stay in at lunchtime and have a closer look.

'Origami, Poems and Pictures' contains thirteen origami projects, each accompanied by a Haiku and a painting, woodcut or print by a Japanese artist. The projects go from simple to medium to tricky, each clearly labelled, and there are 50 sheets of origami paper at the back ready for use. My only concern is that when you use the origami papers, the book obviously starts to come apart and as a book-lover, I find this upsetting, particularly as it is so lovely!

We started with the first project- a boat in seven simple stages. The instructions were very clear, even showing what your work should look like once you have completed a fold and the buzz of success and enthusiasm was great! The picture accompanying this model was Hokusai's woodblock print of 'The Great Wave', offering plenty of scope for discussion and finding out about Japan, artists and artistic styles. A Haiku by Sokan sits above the instructions with the Japanese characters for 'boat' with its English translation and phonetic pronunciation. The poem caused lots of discussion- particularly how clever the poet was to create so many ideas with so few words!

We then moved on to the fish project, rated as medium difficulty. Once again, we all succeeded in following the instructions and created a shoal of very attractive fish. The paper provided is a lovely quality, making folding it easy and clean. This time, the picture was a woodblock print by Chikuseki and the Haiku by Kito.

Emboldened by our success, we decided to try the crane- a 'tricky' project! Now, I have never managed to make a crane I am happy with so I was slightly concerned about how well we would get on, but I needn't have worried! Having explained what a crane is and looked at the print (again by Hokusai), we followed the instructions and made our birds. It was trickier than the other models, but the instructions were clear and easy to follow and the results were pleasing, although we agreed that we would do better a second time as we would make cleaner folds.

At the back, there is an index containing a small amount of information about each picture and the name and dates of the poet. There are also additional hints and tips to help with the folding and to clarify the symbols used.

The introduction comments on each art form and makes clear its hope that the reader will be inspired to find out more about Japan and its art forms. That aim was certainly achieved with my children who were full of enthusiam, not just for the origami, but for the art and poetry as well. They particularly liked the dragonfly haiku-

between the moon coming out

and the sun going in-

the red dragon-flies.


'Origami, Poems and Pictures' is a beautiful book which offers many opportunities for learning- and fun. There is a QR code at the back which offers step-by-step videos should you need more help, but we managed very well without these so I haven't watched them and so can't comment.

'Origami, Poems and Pictures'    The British Museum

Nosy Crow     ISBN: 978-0857639387