June is rainy season in Japan and boy, did it ever come with a vengeance at the end of May with torrential rains that swelled the rivers, and gusty winds that got the tree tops swaying! Sometimes the rain would go on all night long and listening to it drip off the eaves made me think of a leaky faucet with its pit-pat-pit-pat sound on the roof and balcony. We had to get used to carrying umbrellas everywhere (the trick is not to forget them somewhere when it’s stopped raining!) and I had to figure out a way of drying our laundry indoors. Of course, rainy days put a damper on sightseeing, so I was very glad to discover a privately run childrens’ picture book library near my house. Simply called Ehon Toshokan, or Picture Book Library, its small collection is located on the first floor of a house-like building near the Nigawa River in Nishinomiya. A quaint, turreted building, it’s a great place to spend a rainy afternoon with a child or by yourself (as more than one mother mentioned to me!) Dipping into the colorful world of illustrated Japanese childrens’ books was like taking a bath in wonderland. I have long admired the work of Japanese artists in the field of book illustration and found some wonderful books to look at and read. I was quite happy to stumble upon the Japanese equivalent of an alphabet book — a book of hiragana letters with accompanying words — by well known Japanese illustrator Mitsumasa Anno (whose books I’ve covered here before.) In this hiragana book, Anno has shown the shapes of the hiragana letters as they might look if they were carved out of wood; accompanying the wooden letter is an image of a traditional Japanese object beginning with that letter. Some of the items were unrecognizable to me so I had to look them up in the glossary at the back! This is a great children’s primer on not only hiragana but of the many objects unique to this country. Of course, my focus was on Japanese picture books of which there were plenty, but when I took my daughter to the library she wanted to check out the English books available, of which there were also a number. The library contains books from 27 countries in 18 different languages. She settled on Jon Sciezka‘s The Stinky Cheese and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales (illus. by Lane Smith, 1992) and had a blast reading it to me one rainy night. There’s something about curling up with your child with a good book on a rainy day that makes it seem … well, less rainy!
A couple of weeks ago Sally wrote a Books at Bedtime post about Mitsumasa Anno‘s Animals, which sent me back to my collection of his books. Among them, I have another book with a very similar title: The Animals – a book of selected poems by Michio Mado, who is perhaps Japan’s best know poet for children. The poems here have been translated by the Empress Michiko of Japan, and are beautifully presented on gold pages, Japanese on the left, English on the right, with a frieze of animals created by Anno running along the bottom.
Each poem breathes from its double-page spread, and gives the reader thinking space. The book was published by Margaret K. McElderry, who died recently – and it is a testimony to the wonderful work she did in unerringly bringing beautiful picture books into being.
My copy of The Animals was once a library book and one of its previous young readers felt passionately enough about one of the poems to draw around its title on the Contents page very carefully with a felt tip pen. So that is the poem I will share with you today.
Butterflies close their wings
When they go to sleep.
They are so small,
In nobody’s way.
Yet they fold themselves
And this lovely one, “A Dog Walks”, about trying to work out how a dog moves its legs when its walking:
How about tying
On each leg a bell,
Each with a different sound?
Then shall I know?
Having heard about Mitsumasa Anno’s books for children through Aline’s post and Marjorie’s post, I decided to check a few of them out of the library. I was intrigued by Anno’s dedication to, and interest in math since my daughter from an early age, has liked things mathematical. I took out Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar by Mitsumasa and Masaichiro Anno (The Bodley Head, 1983) and also Anno’s Animals (Collins, 1977.) The latter is probably less well known, being an old book, but my daughter and I really enjoyed it. For one thing, it’s an easy ‘read’ as there’s no words in it! Anno’s Animals is a picture book walk through the woods in which you must discover hidden animals (and the occasional human) in drawings of the forest. It’s clever and quite enjoyable, especially in mid-winter when taking a real walk in the woods requires much fortitude, not to mention several layers of clothing! For my daughter, for whom reading can be a bit of a chore, this book was a pleasant departure from the norm. Sitting together on her bed, we pored over the pictures finding hidden squirrels and frogs in leafy canopies and in the bark of trees with much delight. We’d flip the book sideways and upside down, cock our heads and adjust our vision, and voila, another interesting creature would appear. This was a fun and refreshing way to encounter a book. There are many Anno books to be found; hope you can discover some at your library to enjoy with your child!
After a busy day of presentations on Day 2, Day 3 of the Bologna Book Fair was spent meeting people and absorbing the different books on offer.
First up was a lovely chat with poet Jorge Luján, whom we’d caught up with on the Tuesday evening… He shared his brand new book with us and I will share some photos with you when I work out how to get them off the camera (as opposed to a storage disc)… but in the meantime, enjoy this gorgeous poster for the exhibition of Isol’s illustrations from his recently published Pantuflas de perrito which is on-going until 25th April, if you happen to be in Bologna…
Other highlights included:
The presentation of the International Youth Library‘s newly announced 2010 White Ravens Catalogue:
I had a great discussion with Janet Evans from Liverpool Hope University, UK, who is currently spending some time with the Library in Munich
next door at the IBBY stand, Corinne and Aline had a good chat with Sylvia Vardell, editor of IBBY magazine Bookbird and host of the wonderful Poetry for Children blog (Don’t miss out on her current game of Poetry Tag for National Poetry Month in the US).
Meeting Danilla Marii, an Australian writer based in Rome, who had come to the Fair to seek out a publisher for her beautiful and vibrant book The Rainbow Tree – it was a real privilege to be able to see the original draft that includes some intricate collage work. We loved the story too.
Catching up with Antoinette Correa from B.L.D. – Bibliothèque Lecture Développement (Senegal)
and Pilli Hamidu Dumea of the Children’s Book Project for Tanzania.
Meeting author/illustrator/stroyteller John Kilaka, an erstwhile winner of the BolognaRagazzi New Horizons Award (for New Friends in 2005), and seeing his new book, The Amazing Tree.
…And of course, the books…
A display of Mitsumasa Anno’s books at Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers‘ stand, including his new Anno’s Journey across Asia – and if you look at the first photograph for this post you should be able to spot it among the White Ravens 2010 selection too…
A display devoted to Jimmy Liao’s books – what a feast of color and imagination they are. Wouldn’t it be great to have more of his books available in English!
And the much-loved Guji Guji by Chih-Yuan Chen in lots of different languages – interesting, also, to see the different illustrations chosen for the covers.
You can see these and more photos from Day 3 here…
Award-winning illustrator and author Mitsumasa Anno has long been engaging young readers through highly inventive books that call attention to the mathematical relationships that occur all around us. One such book is Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar*, a tale about “a porcelain jar with a sea inside,” which introduces children to the concept of counting by multiplication. Who ever heard of more beautiful imagery in connection with math? I certainly have not.
Anno is also highly regarded for his detailed illustrations depicting his interest in foreign cultures. In All in a Day, which Marjorie has highlighted last year on her “Night and Day” Books at Bedtime post, Anno and nine other artists celebrate “the commonality of humankind” through brief text and illustrations of a day in the lives of children in eight different countries: “We may live in different places, speak different languages, wear different clothes, and pursue different dreams, but we are all here on Earth–right now, each in our own country–and we all share the joys of laughter and learning and life.” What a great idea for young ones to contemplate and explore.
In an interview to the online magazine “Japanese Children’s Books,” Anno talks about his inspiration for All in a Day:
The inspiration for this book arose when I was overwhelmed by the finest sunset on earth at Uskudar, in Istanbul. It was such a fantastic and utterly gorgeous sunset to beat all sunsets! But when I realized that the sun which was just setting in front on my eyes was at the very same time, a rising sun in some other country, I was totally thunderstruck. This meant that this same sun was going down in a country at war and at that same time, it was rising in a country at peace. This was an unbelievably shocking realization for me.
Anno’s deeply felt realization is the kind we can all use more of, these days. Let’s all hope for its multiplication in our “mysterious world jar.”
*Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar and some of Anno’s other books have been included in Marjorie’s piece about alphabet and counting books, “A Whole World of ABCs and 123s.”
Here are two books for sharing which take children on a good-night (and good morning) journey all around the world. They both celebrate differences in customs and lifestyles, and emphasise what we all share as members of the human race…
The first, for very young children, is The Nights of the World by Corinne Albaut and illustrated by Amo, which focuses on five children from different parts of the world, who all sleep in different kinds of beds. When the magic sliding window is opened, readers can see what their days are like too, and although their activities may be different, they all laugh and enjoy playing games – then close the shutter again, and they all are quiet and go to sleep!