Ichikawa, Satomi 1949-
ICHIKAWA, Satomi 1949-
PERSONAL: Born January 15, 1949, in Gifu, Japan; moved to Paris, France, 1971; daughter of Harumi (a teacher) and Nobuko Ichikawa. Education: Attended college in Japan. Hobbies and other interests: Collecting dolls (used), piano, dance.
ADDRESSES: Home—Paris, France. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Philomel Books, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Author and illustrator of books for children, 1974—. Exhibitions: Gallery Printemps Ginza, Japan, 1984.
AWARDS, HONORS: Special mention for Prix "Critici in Erba," Bologna Children's Book Fair, 1978, for Suzette et Nicolas au marché; Kodansha Prize (Japan), 1978, for illustrations in Sun through Small Leaves: Poems of Spring; Sankei Prize (Japan), 1981, for illustrations in Keep Running, Allen!; Notable Book selection, American Library Association, for Dance, Tanya.
A Child's Book of Seasons (poetry), Heinemann (London, England), 1975, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1976.
Friends, Heinemann (London, England), 1976, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1977.
Suzette et Nicolas dans leur jardin, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1976, translation by Denise Sheldon published as Suzanne and Nicholas in the Garden, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1977.
Suzette et Nicolas au marché, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1977, translation by Denise Sheldon published as Suzanne and Nicholas at the Market, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1977, adaptation by Robina Beckles Wilson published as Sophie and Nicky Go to Market, Heinemann (London, England), 1984.
Let's Play, Philomel (New York, NY), 1981.
Children through Four Seasons, Kaisei-sha (Tokyo, Japan), 1981.
Angels Descending from the Sky, Kaisei-sha (Tokyo, Japan), 1983.
Children in Paris (two volumes), Kaisei-sha (Japan), 1984.
Furui oshiro no otomodachi, Kaisei-sha (Tokyo, Japan), 1984, translation published as Nora's Castle, Philomel (New York, NY), 1986.
Beloved Dolls, Kaisei-sha (Tokyo, Japan), 1985.
Nora's Stars, translation from the Japanese, Philomel (New York, NY), 1989.
Nora's Duck, translation from the Japanese, Philomel (New York, NY), 1991.
Nora's Roses, translation from the Japanese, Philomel (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Patricia Lee Gauch) Fickle Barbara, Philomel (New York, NY), 1993.
Nora's Surprise, translation from the Japanese, Philomel (New York, NY), 1994.
Please Come to Tea!, Heinemann (London, England), 1994.
Isabela's Ribbons, Philomel (New York, NY), 1995.
La Robe de Nöel, L'École des loisirs (Paris, France), 1999, translation published as What the Little Fir Tree Wore to the Christmas Party, Philomel (New York, NY), 2001.
The First Bear in Africa!, Philomel (New York, NY), 2001.
My Pig Amarillo: A Tale from Guatemala, Philomel (New York, NY), 2003.
La-La Rose, Philomel (New York, NY), 2003.
Elaine Moss, compiler, From Morn to Midnight (poetry), Crowell (New York, NY), 1977.
Clyde R. Bulla, Keep Running, Allen!, Crowell (New York, NY), 1978.
Marie-France Mangin, Suzette et Nicolas et l'horloge des quatre saisons, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1978, translation published as Suzanne and Nicholas and the Four Seasons, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1978, translation by Joan Chevalier published as Suzette and Nicholas and the Seasons Clock, Philomel (New York, NY), 1982, adaptation by Robina Beckles Wilson published as Sophie and Nicky and the Four Seasons, Heinemann (London, England), c. 1985.
Cynthia Mitchell, Playtime (poetry), Heinemann (London, England), 1978, Collins (New York, NY), 1979.
Cynthia Mitchell, compiler, Under the Cherry Tree (poetry), Collins (New York, NY), 1979.
Michelle Lochak and Marie-France Mangin, Suzette et Nicolas et le cirque des enfants, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1979, translation by Joan Chevalier published as Suzanne and Nicholas and the Sunijudi Circus, Philomel (New York, NY), 1980.
Marcelle Vérité, Suzette et Nicolas aiment les animaux, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1980.
Marcelle Vérité, Suzette et Nicolas au Zoo, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1980.
Robina Beckles Wilson, Sun through Small Leaves: Poems of Spring, Collins (New York, NY), 1980.
Marcelle Vérité, Shiki no kodomotachi, Kaisei-sha (Tokyo, Japan), 1981.
Martine Jaureguiberry, La Joyeuse semaine de Suzette et Nicolas, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1981, translation by Joan Chevalier published as The Wonderful Rainy Week: A Book of Indoor Games, Philomel (New York, NY), 1983.
Resie Pouyanne, Suzette et Nicolas: L'Annee en fetes, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1982.
Robina Beckles Wilson, Merry Christmas! Children at Christmastime around the World, Philomel (New York, NY), 1983.
Resie Pouyanne, Suzette et Nicolas font le tour du monde, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1984.
Cynthia Mitchell, editor, Here a Little Child I Stand: Poems of Prayer and Praise for Children, Putnam (New York, NY), 1985.
Marie-France Mangin, Sophie bout de chou, Gautier-Languereau (Paris, France), 1987.
Elizabeth Laird, Happy Birthday!: A Book of Birthday Celebrations, Philomel (New York, NY), 1988.
Sylvia Clouzeau, Butterfingers, translation from the French by Didi Charney, Aladdin Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Marie-France Mangin, Sophie and Simon, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1988.
Patricia Lee Gauch, Dance, Tanya (also see below), Philomel (New York, NY), 1989.
Elizabeth Laird, Rosy's Garden: A Child's Keepsake of Flowers, Philomel (New York, NY), 1990.
Patricia Lee Gauch, Bravo, Tanya, Philomel (New York, NY), 1992.
Patricia Lee Gauch, Fickle Barbara, Philomel (New York, NY), 1993.
Patricia Lee Gauch, Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two (also see below), Philomel (New York, NY), 1994.
Patricia Lee Gauch, Tanya Steps Out, Philomel (New York, NY), 1996.
Patricia Lee Gauch, Tanya and the Magic Wardrobe, Philomel (New York, NY), 1997.
Eiko Kadono, Grandpa's Soup, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1999.
Janet Taylor Lisle, The Lost Flower Children, Puffin (New York, NY), 1999.
Patricia Lee Gauch, Presenting Tanya, the Ugly Duckling (also see below), Philomel (New York, NY), 2000.
Maryann K. Cusimano, You Are My I Love You, Philomel (New York, NY), 2001.
Patricia Lee Gauch, Tanya and the Red Shoes, Philomel (New York, NY), 2002.
Patricia Lee Gauch, The Tanya Treasury (contains Dance, Tanya; Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two; and Presenting Tanya, the Ugly Duckling, Philomel (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Japanese-born Satomi Ichikawa lives in Paris, France, where she creates books and illustrations for children. Ichikawa's life has not lacked adventure or daring. She taught herself to draw after being inspired by a famous French illustrator and then submitted her work to an English publisher without benefit of agent or network contacts. More than thirty years after deciding to illustrate books, she is still kept busy on her own stories and those of others, including the popular "Tanya" series about a budding young ballerina. School Library Journal correspondent Jacqueline Elsner called Ichikawa's illustrations "masterful," adding that each figure the artist draws, "whether animal, toy, or person, is full of life, humor, and expression in every gesture."
Unlike many prominent illustrators, Ichikawa had not been drawing for years before submitting her work to publishers. She had not thought, as a child, that she would be interested in illustrating children's books. "I had no idea what I wanted to become," she once told CA. "I took a general course of study for women in college. Girls in Japan were usually expected to work for a few years after college and then get married."
Although she was unsure of her career goals, Ichikawa was sure that she wanted to experience life beyond the small town in which she grew up. Some Italian friends she had met in Japan persuaded her to visit them in Italy, and from there she took a trip to France. When she explored Paris, as she recalled, "I felt at home right away…. Japan is beautiful, all of my family is there, but I grew up in the countryside where people are more conservative and where traditions tend to be restrictive." In Paris, Ichikawa "discovered true freedom of spirit." She decided to live permanently in Paris, and while working as an au pair (a live-in governess) to support herself, she began to study French.
It was at that time that Ichikawa encountered the work of illustrator Maurice Boutet de Monvel, who died in 1913. Moved by his gentle watercolors, she began to search for his books in second-hand book shops. "I didn't know whether Boutet de Monvel was alive or dead," she told Herbert R. Lottman in Publishers Weekly. "But I fell in love with his work and wanted to try something of my own. In Paris you are nothing if you don't work."
Inspired by Boutet de Monvel's example, Ichikawa began to draw. "Since I had never drawn before, I started by observing real life in the gardens and in the playgrounds of Paris," she once related to CA. While she viewed the reality she was drawing with the images of Boutet de Monvel in mind, Ichikawa gradually began to develop her own style. "Although I am Japanese," she explained, "my drawings are more European, because my awakening happened here. While I lived in Japan, I never paid much attention to its special beauty, so that it is difficult for me to draw Japanese children and scenes." What has transpired for the well-traveled artist is a bibliography that celebrates multiculturalism. She has written and illustrated books set in Guatemala, Africa, Japan, France, and England, and some of her work—especially that featuring animals—is quite simply universal.
As Lottman noted in Publishers Weekly, "Ichikawa's initial attempts to have her work published were filled with as much verve … as the rest of her life." During a vacation in England, Ichikawa walked into a London bookstore and copied the names and addresses of children's book editors from the books on the shelf. She then visited the editor with the closest address, Heinemann. After perusing the thirty drawings Ichikawa had brought with her, the editor decided to publish her illustrations and the ideas behind them asA Child's Book of Seasons. In a review for Horn Book, Ethel L. Heins described the illustrations as "charming, beautifully composed." Ichikawa's career as an illustrator had begun.
Since the publication of that first work, Ichikawa has seen her own books and books that she has illustrated published in various languages in England, France, the United States, and Japan. Especially notable among these books is the "Suzanne and Nicholas" series. In the first, Suzanne and Nicholas in the Garden, originally published as Suzette et Nicolas dans leur jardin, the children enjoy a summer day in the garden. When Nicholas informs Suzanne that another world exists outside the garden, Suzanne decides that the garden is big enough, "for the moment." As Gayle Celizic wrote in School Library Journal, the book conveys a "sense of peace and contentment."
Suzanne and Nicholas continue their adventures in Suzanne and Nicholas at the Market, originally published as Suzette et Nicolas au marché, and Suzette and Nicholas and the Seasons Clock, written by Marie-France Mangin and first appearing in France as Suzette et Nicolas et l'horloge des quatre saisons. Junior Bookshelf critic Berna Clark found the illustrations in Suzanne and Nicholas at the Market to be "very charming." Similarly, School Library Journal correspondent Jane F. Cullinane commended Suzette and Nicholas and the Seasons Clock for its "delightful pastel illustrations."
Also prominent in Ichikawa's work is the series of "Nora" books that she conceived and wrote herself. The inspiration for the creation of the first of these came from Ichikawa's summer stay in a friend's castle. As she once recalled for CA, "There was no electricity, and every night I went to my room with a candle— going up and down stairs and walking along endless hallways. I stayed there for a month and a half and had no intention of working. But I was so inspired that I wrote the story of a little girl visiting this castle and in every room she discovers a presence—a king, an old piano—reminders of another life." Ichikawa especially enjoyed the creation of Nora's Castle, the first book which she developed "from beginning to end—a very satisfying experience," she said, adding, "I have come to see that this is the best way to work."
The "Nora" books have been generally well received. Nora's Stars, in which Nora's toys come alive at night and help her gather the stars from the sky, was described as "charming" and "cozy" by Jane Yolen in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Sally R. Dow, writing for School Library Journal, noted favorably the "whimsical mood of this quiet bedtime fantasy." In Nora's Duck, Nora finds a wounded duckling and takes it to Doctor John, who provides care and a home for other stricken animals on his farm. Doctor John lovingly tends to the duckling, and Nora takes it back to its pond to be reunited with its mother. Ann A. Flowers wrote in Horn Book that the "quiet delicacy" of Ichikawa's illustrations "mirrors the compassion and trust of the story." A reviewer for Kirkus Reviews commented that Ichikawa's "sweet, precise style is perfect for this idyll," and Jody McCoy related in School Library Journal that the book is an "excellent choice to encourage discussion of the humane treatment of animals."
In Nora's Roses, Nora is home with a bad cold. She passes the time by watching passersby enjoy her blooming rose bush. When a hungry cow robs the bush of all but one last bloom, Nora preserves the only rose left by drawing a picture of it. Carolyn Phelan of Booklist observed that Ichikawa's technique "captures … the beauty of a rose in bloom, and the determination of a young child." A critic for Quill & Quire also praised Ichikawa, proclaiming that her "illustrative technique is a delight." In her School Library Journal review, Lori A. Janick commented: "The story has a gentle sweetness enhanced by exquisite water-color illustrations."
Ichikawa once told CA that the books Dance, Tanya; Bravo, Tanya; and Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two, the first three installments in the "Tanya" series, are very important in her life. "This is the first time that my love for dance and my drawing have joined," she said. "Thanks to P. L. Gauch, who wrote these stories of Tanya especially for me!" When readers first meet Tanya in Dance, Tanya, she is a preschooler who loves to dance and who envies her older sister, who gets to go to dancing school and be in recitals. After attending her sister's recital, Tanya beguiles her family by dancing her own version of Swan Lake. Her reward comes soon after: her own leotard and dancing slippers, and lessons at her sister's school. Denise Wilms said of Dance, Tanya in Booklist, "Gauch's sweet story gains strength from Ichikawa's soft watercolor paintings."
Tanya's adventures continue in further books, including Bravo, Tanya; Tanya and the Red Shoes; Tanyaand Emily in a Dance for Two; Presenting Tanya, the Ugly Duckling; and Tanya Steps Out. All of these stories communicate not only a love of classical ballet, but also the frustrations and challenges of learning to perform a demanding art. In Tanya and the Red Shoes, for instance, Tanya gets the pointe shoes she has longed for—and the blisters, calluses, and clumsiness that goes with them. Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two describes the budding friendship between Tanya and Emily, the best dancer in the class. The girls find inspiration from each other when Tanya teaches Emily to dance like the animals at the zoo, and Emily helps Tanya to perfect her cabriolet. Bravo, Tanya was commended by a Kirkus Reviews contributor, who wrote that "Ichikawa captures the joy and energy of the dance in her sensitive paintings." In her Horn Book review of Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two, Hanna B. Zeiger noted that Tanya's escapades provide "a delight for the dancer hidden in all of us."
Ichikawa has set some of her picture books in locations far removed from her home in Paris. Isabela's Ribbons features a Puerto Rican youngster in her verdant tropical milieu. Isabel loves ribbons and hide-and-seek, but no other children want to play with her. However, when her fantasies begin to run away with her, she finally makes new friends. A Publishers Weekly critic wrote: "Gaily patterned watercolors packed with playful details make this book a joy to behold."
The animals of the African savanna work together with a young boy to help reunite a teddy bear with its owner in The First Bear in Africa! Meto is fascinated when a family of tourists visits his village with a teddy bear as he has never seen a bear before. When the toy gets left behind, Meto runs across the savanna after the family, pausing only to show the strange beast to the lion, hippo, giraffe, and elephant that he meets on the way. A Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed the book "a light, appealing caper," while School Library Journal contributor Alicia Eames called it "a sweet and idealized tale of universal fellowship."
Ichikawa spins another universal tale through an exotic location in My Pig Amarillo: A Tale from Guatemala. Pablito is delighted when he is given a pet pig, and soon pig and boy have become fast friends. When Amarillo the pig disappears without a trace, Pablito searches endlessly and weeps into his pillow when Amarillo fails to return. It falls to Pablito's grandfather to school the boy on coping with grief and loss. Claiming the work is "sure to become a classic," a Kirkus Reviews critic called the volume "a masterpiece of picture-book making." Booklist's Ilene Cooper commented favorably on the way Ichikawa "wraps the story in universal emotions: love, longing, grief, hope."
Although Ichikawa is writing more of her own books, she still finds time to illustrate some titles by other authors. You Are My I Love You, written by Maryann K. Cusimano, explores the love between a mother and child teddy bear as they share a day together. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the text and illustrations work together, "instantly communicating all that the reader needs to know about the wonders of loving and being loved." In Grandpa's Soup, written by Eiko Kadono, a grieving widower learns to communicate with the world again by trying over and over to re-create his wife's meatball soup. The story made its debut in Japan, but according to Marta Segal in Booklist, its "gentle lessons on coping with grief are applicable to any culture."
Ichikawa works very hard at her craft, often turning out as many as three books a year. According to Michael Patrick Hearn in a Horn Book article, Boutet de Monvel's work "is kept alive" through Ichikawa's art, as her illustrations continue to delight children around the world. Several decades after her departure from Japan, she continues to live in Paris. Because, as she once commented, an "artist must feel complete freedom in order to create," her work is enriched by her life in the city. Ichikawa once asserted, "Coming to Paris was a rebirth for me." Her paintings that capture the exuberance, imagination, and joy of childhood have found fans all over the world.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Literature Review, Volume 62, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Ichikawa, Satomi, Suzanne and Nicholas in the Garden, F. Watts (New York, NY), 1977.
Booklist, September 1, 1989, Denise Wilms, review of Dance, Tanya, pp. 70-71; March 15, 1993, Carolyn Phelan, review of Nora's Roses, p. 1360; December 1, 1999, Marta Segal, review of Grandpa's Soup, p. 712; September 1, 2001, Grace Anne A. DeCandido, review of What the Little Fir Tree Wore to the Christmas Party, p. 120; April 1, 2003, Ilene Cooper, review of My Pig Amarillo: A Tale from Guatemala, p. 1396.
Five Owls, September-October, 1994, review of Nora's Surprise, p. 12.
Horn Book, June, 1976, Ethel L. Heins, review of A Child's Book of Seasons, pp. 280-281; April, 1979, Michael Patrick Hearn, "Satomi Ichikawa," p. 180; March, 1992, Ann A. Flowers, review of Nora's Duck, p. 191; November-December, 1994, Hanna B. Zeiger, review of Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two, p. 718; May, 1999, review of The Lost Flower Children, p. 333.
Junior Bookshelf, April, 1978, Berna Clark, review of Suzanne and Nicholas at the Market, p. 89.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1989, review of Nora's Stars, p. 693; November 1, 1991, review of Nora's Duck, p. 1404; April 1, 1992, review of Bravo, Tanya, p. 464; May 1, 2003, review of My Pig Amarillo, p. 678.
Publishers Weekly, June 7, 1993, Herbert R. Lottman, "In the Studio with Satomi Ichikawa," p. 19; August 21, 1995, review of Isabela's Ribbons, p. 65; April 12, 1999, review of The Lost Flower Children, p. 75; November 8, 1999, review of Grandpa's Soup, p. 66; March 12, 2001, review of The First Bear in Africa!, p. 90; April 9, 2001, review of You Are My I Love You, p. 73; May 12, 2003, review of My Pig Amarillo, p. 66.
Quill & Quire, April, 1993, Joanne Schott, review of Nora's Roses, p. 36.
School Library Journal, April, 1983, Jane F. Cullinane, review of Suzette and Nicholas and the Seasons Clock, p. 104; March, 1987, Gayle Celizic, review of Suzette and Nicholas in the Garden, p. 146; July, 1989, Sally R. Dow, review of Nora's Stars, pp. 66-67; November, 1991, Jody McCoy, review of Nora's Duck, p. 1404; June, 1993, Lori A. Janick, review of Nora's Roses, pp. 77-78; May, 1994, Jacqueline Elsner, review of Nora's Surprise, p. 96; September, 1994, Cheri Estes, review of Tanya and Emily in a Dance for Two, p. 184; June, 1999, Susan Pine, review of Presenting Tanya, the Ugly Duckling, pp. 95-96; June, 2001, Alicia Eames, review of The First Bear in Africa!, p. 118; October, 2001, review of What the Little Fir Tree Wore to the Christmas Party, p. 66; May, 2003, Marge Loch-Wouters, review of My Pig Amarillo, p. 122.*