Recently, in collaboration with illustrator Misa Saburi, I put out my first picture book. Having previously only published novels and short stories, it was a surprisingly welcome change.
It’s extremely gratifying to have someone else aesthetically invested in the production of a book. In the past I’ve had my editors and publishers, of course, but they generally arrive on the scene after a book is finished.
Knowing an illustrator will bring your words to life make the writing far less lonely—even though Misa and I have an ocean between us. Literally. The Atlantic.
Needless to say, I’m already looking forward to our next collaboration.
The story was inspired by my family and experiences in Japan and it’s told in a series of English tanka poems. I’m pleased to report the book joins a venerable tradition of illustrated English books about Japan.
Here are a few of my favourites:
One Leaf Rides the Wind
by Celeste Mannis, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung
A beautiful counting book set in a peaceful Japanese garden, notably written in linked haiku poems.
by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
Like Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms, this is a tale of a girl and her grandmother, each connected by the beauty and history of a blue kimono.
by Taro Yashima
A classic story of a neglected youth who finds strength when he is at last accepted by his peers.
by Katey Howes, illustrated by Rebecca Hahn
An old woman who obsessively tends her garden, finds new perspective in the slow and inevitable change of seasons.
I Live in Tokyo
by Mari Takabayashi
I Live in Tokyo describes a year in the life of a girl living in Japan’s capital. It’s an thorough introduction to the customs, seasonal festivals, and delicious food of Japan.
One Stormy Night
by Kimura Yuichi
The story of a deep and unexpected friendship that forms between a wolf and a sheep when they are forced to shelter together in a storm.
by Yuichi Yokoyama
Is this a children’s book? Perhaps. At first glance, it’s a wordless graphic novel about just this—travelling—but becomes more as a train journey goes on a different kind of tour, into the minds of its riders.
by Allan Say
Speaking of travel, this is the richly told, richly illustrated, story of Allan Say’s grandfather and his journey from Japan to the United States and back again.
by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young
An interesting book that explains the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, the idea that beauty is derived from imperfection. The book’s torn paper artwork is appropriately gorgeous.
Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories
by Florence Sakade, illustrated by Yoshisuke Kurosaki
Many of the most classic and famous stories told to children in Japan are collected here in a single volume. Principal among them is the perennial favourite, Momotarō (Peach Boy), a tale that proves you don’t have to be the biggest or strongest to win the day. What’s most important is friendship—preferably with a dog, a monkey and a pheasant.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but hopefully makes a good start for the uninitiated.
Speaking of not being exhaustive, what did I miss? Tweet suggestions at me whenever you please.