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Origami in books. NOT origami books. These are the books for inspiration with origami in our lives. Origami is a beautiful craft and perfect for meditative peace during lockdown and life in general. Reading too. Sometimes we’re not quite in the mental space to create our own paper graphics. Sometimes the same serenity is achieved by reading about someone using their skills.
I love origami. In everything else, I’m a messy, hot mess, full of ideas but no follow-up (please don’t look at my TBR stack). However, when I slide out a piece of Japanese paper and apply my thumbnail on some neat creases, I get a sense of calm and control over my life. It is a sweet challenge to bend the paper to my will to create something beautiful. And the bonus of adding sweet messages to the art … well, I enjoy reading about that too.
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There are many books and videos online with instructions for making origami absolutely stunning. You can use any paper you like and make any creative additions that come to you. But if you’re looking for stories that have origami at the center – origami in the Books – You will be overwhelmed by the creativity of my pick for 11 of the Best Stories: Origami in Books.
Sadako Sasaki and Eleanor Coerr’s thousand paper cranes
The first book that many people think of when we say “origami in books” is Sadako Sasaki and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. This book has been made available to schools around the world as a children’s historical novel. The 1977 novel is based on the life of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who fell ill with leukemia after the Hiroshima bombing in World War II. In the course of the novel, Sadako was told about a Japanese legend in which the gods grant you a wish if you fold a thousand origami cranes. According to Coerr’s retelling, Sadako was only able to fold 664 before she died of her illness. Her friends and family continued the fold to 1000 and then donated it to a memorial with a wish that no one could suffer like Sadako.
The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki by Masahiro Sasaki and Su DiCicco
Sadako’s incomplete dream broke me as a teenager. I remember folding origami cranes in her honor for a whole summer. Plot Twist: Sadako has hit her 1000 cranes (plus more). Sadako’s brother has co-published a subsequent novel with co-author Sue DiCicco, The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki. Masahiro Sasaki shared more details about Sadako’s life and the family’s subsequent work in promoting peace around the world. Many of the origami cranes have been donated to monuments, museums, and schools around the world. While Sadako’s desire for peace was canceled by many, Sadako could not avoid the complications of her illness. The message of Coerr’s original novel is beautiful and inspiring, but the realism of Sasaki’s and DiCicco’s book is even more powerful. You will never see an origami crane like this again.
Boy meets boy by David Levithan
A popular favorite among Book Riot crews. It’s the typical romantic trump card of high school love with one major difference: It’s in a gay-friendly small town with a pro-LGBTQI school and an active community. Levithan wrote this book after hearing about his best friend’s friend who grew up in a very conservative household in the American Midwest. Boy Meets Boy is the ultimate upbeat romance novel from YA. It’s quirky, adorable, and the main character Paul spends an entire night making origami flowers to decorate the hall and locker of his love. That brings the awww into origami.
If you love this book as much as we do, check out our regular reading options: David Levithan Here.
The origami master of Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and Aki Sogabe
Origami can be a great lesson in humility, as demonstrated in the children’s book The Origami Master, written by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and illustrated by Aki Sogabe. I say illustrated, but is a more apt word created. Sogabe is known for their beautiful paper cuts (see more of them here). Her simple but elegant work of art is perfectly in tune with the nature of origami and the life lesson told in the story. Shima, the origami master, lives on a mountain and practices origami every day. One morning he finds an origami elephant on his desk – even more adept than his own. This takes a few days until Shima captures the ‘new master’ and demands to learn his secrets. So comes the lesson in humility; As with origami, if you force something that wasn’t meant to be, you are more likely to tear something apart.
“Ghostweight” by Yoon Ha Lee
A science fiction novel with origami in story and soul. Lisse, the main character, steals a war spaceship to avenge her homeworld, which has been destroyed by battle and destruction. Lisse is not alone; She is accompanied (and guided) to buy spirits from her ancestors. Spirits sharing stories, experiences and advice. It is a skill shared by their people called “ghost weight”.
“It is not true that the dead cannot be folded. Square becomes dragon becomes swan; History becomes rumor becomes song. Even the act of remembrance enhances the truth. “
Ghostweight by Yoon Ha Lee
This story offers a beautiful mix of basic origami concepts and science fiction creativity. My favorite is the Jerengjen weapon, which unfolds from flat shapes to artillery with dragon-shaped shadows. It can also be folded into wolf-shaped robots or curvilinear bombers. You can read it for yourself on the Clarkesworld website here.
Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O’Connell George and Lauren Stringer
I love this book because of its balance between poetry, artwork, and creativity with origami. Fold Me a Poem contains 30 poems for children, from short stories to free verse to haiku. Each of them focuses on a boy’s imagination creating a world full of origami creatures. The illustrations are a wonderful compliment to both the poetry and the evolving nature of a child’s imagination. Perfect for sharing bite sizes as an introduction to origami (kids and adults alike).
Origami warriors created by Jhou Sian Zong
The story begins with three children discovering paper with a book showing how to fold the paper into different shapes. The paper is indeed an old but technologically advanced device that can be folded into a genius. The main characters soon learn that they can work with the geniuses and become superheroes known as origami warriors! The comic book style is very cute, but I love the range of forces that depend on what they fold. Origami fighter types include dragon, flower, and crane. This Taiwanese comic book series is also known as Origami Fighters and was followed by Origami Fighter Generation, Origami Fighter W, and Origami Fighter X. I only read the first series but would love to hear from everyone who has read the others.
“Origami” by Troy Onyango
“He fell in love with the way people make origami paper – slowly, beautifully, with hands full of paper cuts.”
Origami from Troy Onyango
Troy Onyango can also be seen in “The Short Story Is Dead”. Long live the short story! Vol.4, a short story collection with 11 stories by African writers. The authors’ collection is from the longlist of the 2018 Black Letter Media annual short story competition, including Nebila Abdulmelik, Carey Baraka, Tariro Ndoro and Themesha Khan.
“Origami of the Heart” by M Pepper Langlinais
Another online short story set this time in Tokyo that shows the awkward but sweet interaction between two male characters: Dane and Nolan. It’s a nice comparison between origami and the foldable nature of ourselves when we interact with people we don’t know. Bend back and forth as we look under their folds to learn more about them. You can find origami of the heart on the East of the Web Short Stories website here.
Ken Liu’s paper menagerie
This magical story won the Hugo, the Mist, and the World Fantasy Awards – the first story ever to win all three, and it deserves every award that goes with it. It’s a story of family, love and loss, and a little bit of magic that bind us together. The focus is on the traditional skill of zhezi, the Chinese equivalent of origami. Jack’s mother made zhezi animals for him and breathed life into them to create playmates. For his mother, this is part of her Chinese ancestry that she wants to share with him. Unfortunately, as Jack grows he loses interest in Zhezi … and his mother. The story is heartbreaking, but so powerful in its symbolism and sensitivity. It’s a beautiful glimpse into the fragility of family secrets, much like the light paper we use in origami and zhezi.
The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
This is the last of my suggestions because I honestly have two opinions on it. On the one hand, The People of Paper is an exploratory novel depicting the painful struggles of life and writing through a fantastic world made up of paper and fantasy. On the other hand, it’s stylistic and personal, which can be good in and of itself, but carries the risk of not sitting well with some readers. For example, the pain of being abandoned by a woman leaves a rather misogynistic taste in chapter 12 that almost spoiled the mood of the whole book. However, I think the rest of the novel deserves a mention in this article as the creative genius deserves at least a look at how our own lives can be both weak and strong, just like paper. One of the characters is an origami surgeon transplanting organs with origami versions of the same. If you’ve ever felt like folding backwards to adjust to another, you’ll empathize with the stress we can put on even the toughest of paper. The People of Paper was mentioned by book colleague Vanessa Diaz in her “Riot Recommendation: 60 of your favorite books for the strange and convincing!”
Very similar to your favorite book, origami folds and unfolds with the story as characters reveal themselves on paper. It’s such a beautiful art form that I expected it to be used more often in creative writing. If I missed something here, please let us know in the social media chats!