by: Sarah Momo Romero
This month, I went to Japan for the most incredibly fun, exciting and inspirational two week vacation. My husband and I went to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, and I stopped by a children’s book store at each major city in search of a picture book gem to bring home with me. I had to stop myself from buying all the adorable, beautiful picture books, but I did find quite a few I couldn’t leave without. I wish I knew how to speak Japanese so I could actually read these enchanting stories, but as I always do for these posts, I will focus on the amazing artwork. And as soon as I have the chance, I plan to visit my grandma for story time and translations for my new treasures. Regardless of the language, the best thing about picture books is the art speaks for itself. Here are a few of my favorite finds from my art-filled vacation. (Note: All translated information below is correct to the best of my knowledge, but please forgive me if I’ve gotten any of it wrong.)
I found the following collection of picture books at the most adorable children’s bookstore I’ve ever been to, Crayon House, in Tokyo.
The cover of Chirri and Chirra immediately caught my attention as capturing the essence of cuteness in Japan. The author and illustrator, Kaya Doi, creates a soft and dreamy world full of delicious treats and friendly animals with her signature colored pencil and crayon.
The illustrations of the forest and nature made me think of my early morning walk through Yoyogi Park. It was so peaceful and relaxing, and Doi’s illustrations captured this feeling exactly in her forest scenes. Flipping through this picture book felt like being in a child’s dream or fairy tale, so delightful and enchanting.
Chirri and Chirra was translated into English, and you can find it on Amazon:
This second book, きょうはそらにまるいつき, is by author illustrator Ryoji Arai. The illustrations are the complete opposite of Chirri and Chirra, with its textural brushstrokes and darker color palette. Ryoji captures the energy of city life, with brilliant lights against the night sky, and the quiet moments filled with warmth.
I love Arai’s different perspectives on the world he creates, including the bird’s eye view of the city below. With so many skyscraper buildings and high-rises in Tokyo, it’s easy to see why Arai would choose to create a view of the bright bustling city contrasted with the darkness of the lush park in the distance. I found the link for this book on Japan’s Amazon, but unfortunately was not able to find an English version.
The Mountain of Flowers by Jiro Takihira and Ryusuke Saito is simple and stunning. The contrast of the black background against the stark white figures and minimal color exude a unique sense of character and place. This very graphic style of illustration is reminiscent of wood-cut block printing with an abstract and minimalistic color palette. I just have to have this book for my collection. You can find this book here:
And last but not least, Millie’s Marvelous Hat by Satoshi Kitamura, is my favorite discovery from Tokyo. I loved Kitamura’s uneven, whimsical linework and his vivid use of water color. The faces on his characters are playful and distinct, each one with his or her own imaginative hat and I loved the little details on the page. Kitamura has a way of using patterns and distinctive shapes to create a playful world rich in details without being realistic. And Millie is just plain adorable. You can find his book here:
This trip to Japan has opened my eyes to a culture and lifestyle that has captured my heart and ignited ideas and inspiration beyond my expectations. I hope you've enjoyed seeing a glimpse of Japan through my picture book finds. I definitely enjoyed looking for these gems, and think I've discovered my new pass-time for vacation - picture book hunting in new cities! Have you found any cute and unique children's book stores during your travels? Do you have a unique children's book store you love to visit outside of Los Angeles? I'd love to hear about it to add to my list!
Sarah Momo Romero is a Japanese Peruvian American artist, a graphic designer by day and children's book author and illustrator by night. She’s loved drawing and painting since she was a chiquita and now crafts stories of adventure and wondrous creatures. Sarah is an active SCBWI member who draws inspiration from her life in sunny Los Angeles with her husband/creative partner and dog/infamous escape artist, Peanut. Look out for her first picture book, "Wake Up, Little Bat!" coming out in the Fall of 2018!
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Sarah Momo Romero.
And 5th Mondays will feature awesomely irreverent and super funny Aussie author Brydie Wright.
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