Kitamura, Satoshi 1956-
KITAMURA, Satoshi 1956-
PERSONAL: Born June 11, 1956, in Tokyo, Japan; moved to England, 1983; son of Testuo (a retail consultant) and Fusae (Sadanaga) Kitamura; married Yoko Sugisaki (an interior designer), December 15, 1987. Education: Attended schools in Japan.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Farrar, Straus, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY, 10003.
CAREER: Freelance illustrator and author, 1975—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Mother Goose Award, Books for Children Book Club, 1983, for Angry Arthur; Signal Award, 1984, for Sky in the Pie; What's Inside selected one of New York Times Notable Books, 1985; Children's Science Book Award (Great Britain) and Children's Science Book Award, New York Academy of Sciences, both 1987, both for When Sheep Cannot Sleep.
What's Inside: The Alphabet Book, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1985.
Paper Jungle: A Cut-out Book, A. & C. Black (London, England), 1985, Holt (New York, NY), 1986.
When Sheep Cannot Sleep: The Counting Book, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1986.
Lily Takes a Walk, Dutton (New York, NY), 1987.
Captain Toby, Dutton (New York, NY), 1987.
UFO Diary, Andersen (London, England), 1989, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1990.
From Acorn to Zoo, Andersen (London, England), 1991, published as From Acorn to Zoo and Everything in between in Alphabetical Order, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1992.
Sheep in Wolves' Clothing, Andersen (London, England), 1995, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
Paper Dinosaurs: A Cut-out Book, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1995.
Squirrel Is Hungry, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
Cat Is Sleepy, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
Dog Is Thirsty, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
Duck Is Dirty, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1996.
Bath-time Boots, Andersen (London, England), 1997, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1998.
A Friend for Boots, Andersen (London, England), 1997, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1998.
Goldfish Hide-and-Seek, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1997.
Me and My Cat? Andersen (London, England), 1999, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2000.
Comic Adventures of Boots, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2002.
Hiawyn Oram, Angry Arthur, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1982.
Hiawyn Oram, Ned and the Joybaloo, Anderson (London, England), 1983, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1989.
Roger McGough, Sky in the Pie (poems), Viking (New York, NY), 1983.
Hiawyn Oram, In the Attic, Andersen (London, England), 1984, Holt (New York, NY) 1985.
The Flying Trunk (anthology), Andersen (London, England), 1986.
Pat Thomson, My Friend Mr. Morris, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1987.
Alison Sage and Helen Wire, compilers, The Happy Christmas Book (anthology), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1986.
Andy Soutter, Scrapyard, A. & C. Black (London, England), 1988.
A Children's Chorus (anthology), Dutton (New York, NY), 1989.
Hiawyn Oram, A Boy Wants a Dinosaur, Andersen (London, England), 1990, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1991.
Hiawyn Oram, Speaking for Ourselves (poems), Methuen (London, England), 1990.
Carl Davis and Hiawyn Oram, A Creepy Crawly Song Book, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1993.
Mick Fitzmaurice, Morris Macmillipede: The Toast of Brussels Sprout, Andersen (London, England), 1994.
Stephen Webster, Inside My House, Riverswift (London, England), 1994.
Stephen Webster, Me and My Body, Riverswift (London, England), 1994.
Richard Edwards, Fly with the Birds: An Oxford Word and Rhyme Book, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1995, published as Fly with the Birds: A Word and Rhyme Book, Orchard Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Brenda Walpole, Hello, Is There Anyone There?, Riverswift (London, England), 1995.
Brenda Walpole, Living and Working Together, Riverswift (London, England), 1995.
John Agard, We Animals Would Like a Word with You, Bodley Head (London, England), 1996.
John Agard, Points of View with Professor Peekaboo (poems), Bodley Head (London, England), 2000.
John Agard, Einstein, the Girl Who Hated Maths, Hodder Wayland (London, England), 2002.
Kitamura's books have been translated into Spanish.
ADAPTATIONS: From Acorn to Zoo and Everything in between in Alphabetical Order was published in Braille and also made into a take-home literacy pack that includes an audiocassette and activity book. Several books have been translated into Braille, including When Sheep Cannot Sleep and Oram Hiawyn's Ned and the Joybaloo.
SIDELIGHTS: Praised for his ability to interweave Japanese and Western visual traditions within the engaging illustrations he has contributed to the works of numerous writers, Satoshi Kitamura has also become known as an author of children's books. With strong technical abilities and a gift for visual humor, Kitamura adds a whimsical, often unconventional touch to traditional children's-book formats such as alphabet and counting books. He is widely recognized for his use of simplified, angular shapes and a rich palette of earth and sky tones. As David Wiesner noted in the New York Times Book Review, Kitamura's books "are suffused with both warmth and wit....The simplicity of Mr. Kitamura's art is deceptive. A superb draftsman and colorist, he uses pen and brush to create remarkably lush and textured illustrations." Among the author/illustrator's most well-received titles are the award-winning counting book When Sheep Cannot Sleep, Sheep in Wolves' Clothing, and UFO Diary, a 1989 work that School Librarian contributor Sue Smedley praised as "a sophisticated book acknowledging that children deserve quality texts and illustrations."
"I am interested in different angles of looking at things," Kitamura once told CA. "I find great potential in picture books where visual and verbal fuse to experience and [I also] experiment with these angles. Also, there is an advantage of universality of expression in this medium due to the clarity required for young readers."
Kitamura was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. In 1983 he moved to England, making his permanent home in London. By the time he became a resident of Great Britain, Kitamura's first children's book-illustration project, Hiawyn Oram's Angry Arthur, had already been published in both England and the United States. An award-winning book, Angry Arthur caused publishers to take notice of the young Japanese illustrator and his work; numerous projects were soon awarded Kitamura in quick succession.
In 1985 Kitamura published What's Inside: The Alphabet Book, the first of his many solo children's-book projects. Full of visual clues to help lead young prereaders through alphabetically ordered pairs of lower-cased letters, What's Inside was dubbed "gloriously exuberant" by a Junior Bookshelf critic and praised by School Library Journal contributor Patricia Homer as a book "which will delight readers who are up to a verbal and visual challenge." Denise M. Wilms echoed such praise in Booklist, maintaining that the "imaginative quality" of Kitamura's full-color line-and-wash illustrations "make for a fresh, engaging display of letters that will stand up to more than one close look."
In another alphabet book, Kitamura builds young readers' vocabulary, one letter at a time. From Acorn to Zoo features pages chock-full of illustrated objects that begin with the same letter, allowing children's vocabularies to be "expanded almost painlessly and [their] capacity for observation sharpened," in the opinion of a Junior Bookshelf reviewer. Each illustration features energetic pen-and-ink renderings of an unusual assortment of animals and objects, richly colored and positioned on the page in ways readers will find humorous. For example, on one page a hefty hippo tests the strength of a hammock by sitting in it and playing his harmonica while a harp and coat hanger can be found nearby. In a similar vein, Kitamura tackles introductory mathematics by illustrating the quandary of an insomniac named Woolly in When Sheep Cannot Sleep, a 1-2-3 book. Rather than lay about in the dark, Woolly goes on a search for objects grouped first in pairs, then in threes, fours, and so on up to twenty-two before tiring himself out and falling asleep in an abandoned country cottage. But Kitamura does not make things any too easy for his reader; on each page the object Woolly finds must also be discovered by the reader and its quantity totaled up. The work drew rave reviews. Calling When Sheep Cannot Sleep "a joy to look at," Horn Book contributor Anita Silvey added that Kitamura's "slightly primitive drawing style is delightful, making counting the objects or just looking at the book a great deal of fun." Booklist reviewer Ilene Cooper noted that the author/illustrator's "squared-off sheep has an endearingly goofy look that kids and adults will love," while Jane Doonan of the Times Literary Supplement dubbed When Sheep Cannot Sleep the "perfect picture book free from stereo-type images, brimming with unforced humor." In School Library Journal Lorraine Douglas praised Kitamura for his "engaging and fresh approach." School Librarian reviewer Donald Fry also lauded When Sheep Cannot Sleep, concluding that no other such counting book is "so witty and enjoyable as this one."
Goofy-looking sheep serve as the focus of Kitamura's Sheep in Wolves' Clothing. Hubert, Georgina, and Gogol are sheep who hoof it on down to the seashore for one last dip in the ocean before the chill of winter sets in. Near the beach, they meet a group of wolves enjoying the fall afternoon by taking time off from work at their knitwear factory to take in a round of golf. The wolves generously offer to watch the sheep's warm wool coats while the seabound swimmers take their plunge; not surprisingly, neither wolves nor wool are anywhere to be found when the soaked sheep return. Fortunately, the sheep call in the services of Elliott Baa, a fully fleeced ace detective, who follows the woolly trail to its conclusion. "Younger children will delight in the climactic brouhaha and will also find [Sheep in Wolves' Clothing] a satisfying mystery story," according to Horn Book reviewer Margaret Bush.
In Lily Takes a Walk young readers see the divergent perceptions of dog and child as an overactive imagination conjures up frightening sights. While on their routine evening walk, Nicky scares up shadows of everything from vampires to monsters, yet owner Lily sees none of Nicky's concerns. Several reviewers of the book praised Kitamura's combining of scariness and humor, such as a Kirkus reviewer who called Lily Takes a Walk "understated, subtle, and delightful," and Kay E. Vandergrift, who dubbed the work a "clever idea with an appropriately humorous ending" in School Library Journal. In conclusion, a Publishers Weekly contributor deemed this walk "well worth taking."
Other books by Kitamura that showcase his vivid imagination and ability to capture a child's attention include UFO Diary, the observations of an outer-space visitor who accidentally lands on Earth and is befriended by a young boy. Although never depicted in Kitamura's colorful drawings, the alien provides readers with an opportunity to "see our planet's natural abundance and beauty with fresh eyes," according to John Peters, a School Library Journal contributor. Among the book's enthusiasts are Liz Brooks of the Times Literary Supplement, who praised both Kitamura's artistry and simplicity, and Sue Perren of Quill & Quire, who noted that the illustrations "say it all." In the words of Horn Book contributor Nancy Vasilakis, UFO Diary is an "unusual" work, one that constitutes a "beautiful, quiet, respectful reminder of who we are and whence we come."
The picture book Captain Toby is also unusual in showing the aplomb of a young boy who takes charge in his imagination after he becomes convinced that the storm raging outside his bedroom window has blown his house out to sea. According to School Library Journal's Patricia Pearl, "a clever premise is carefully realized in the illustrations," yet she found the plot less successful, particularly its denouement. On the other hand, a Publishers Weekly contributor called Captain Toby a "nautical romp," a voyage in which the creator melds "sweet charm and raucous revelry." Likening the book to a film that scrolls from frame to frame, Margery Fisher described the book as a "complete and believable fantasy" in her Growing Point review.
Cats play an important role in a handful of Kitamura's picture books. For example, his Me and My Cat?, which Booklist critic Amy Brandt described as "funny, frenetic, and insightful," revolves around the body-switch perpetrated by a witch's spell upon the boy Nicholas and his cat Leonardo. So while Leonardo in Nicholas's body goes off to school, Nicholas in Leonardo's body explores the varied activities of a cat with "high humor" and a "wickedly delightful twist at the end," to quote Ann Welton of School Library Journal. A Horn Book reviewer also praised the book's humor, describing it as "dry" and the book as a whole as "farcical comedy." In addition, in Goldfish Hide-and-Seek a cat stalks a goldfish that has left his bowl in search of a missing playmate, in what Lynne Taylor of School Library Journal termed "original, playful, absurd, superlative, inspired." And finally, a cat stars in one of a quartet of cardboard books for toddlers. Since they are geared to the youngest book users, Cat Is Sleepy, Squirrel Is Hungry, Dog Is Thirsty, and Duck Is Dirty feature fewer words and use illustrations that employ somewhat heavier lines than Kitamura's standard fare. Applauding these books for their appropriate humor and plots, School Library Journal contributor Ann Cook added, "No cutesy, patronizing stuff here." In fact, each story shows how an animal hero solves a simple, but not trivial, problem. According to a Kirkus reviewer, even the artwork in this quartet demonstrates more sophistication than is expected in books for such young readers.
Also showing Kitamura's feline fancy, a cat named Boots figures prominently in his fictional world. Bath-time Boots, A Friend for Boots, and Comic Adventures of Boots introduce readers to a memorable feline. The first two works are board books for toddlers in which a round-eyed cat tries to evade the bath and to find a friend, respectively. This duo "will hit home with small children," a Kirkus Reviews writer noted, because of their simple plot lines and the expressively depicted characters. For an older readership, children in grades two through four, the Comic Adventures of Boots is a collection of three cat stories that, to quote Booklist reviewer Susan Dove Lempke, are "equally goofy and laugh-out-loud funny." The first story, "Operation Fish Biscuit," shows how Boots gets back his best napping place, while in "Pleased to Meet You, Madam Quark" he takes swimming lessons from a duck, and in "Let's Play a Guessing Game" kittens play charades. The pages are broken up into panels like a comic book and use dialog balloons. This style elicited comment from Linda M. Kenton, who expressed concern in School Library Journal that some readers might be put off by such cluttered pages; even so, she praised the humor as "simultaneously sly and outrageous." Sometimes, as a Kirkus Reviews writer pointed out, words are unnecessary because Kitamura "captures an astonishing range of expressions and reactions" in the cats' features.
In assessing Kitamura's accomplishments for Children's Literature, Jane Doonan wrote: "Kitamura's work is notable . . . for the artist's material skills and for his distinctive relationship to the pictorial tradition of Japan....In less than a decade Kitamura has made, and continues to make, a distinctive contribution to the art of the children's picture book. The fresh way of saying 'even something very commonplace' [to quote Maurice Sendak] is evident in all he does."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Literature Review, Volume 60, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000, pp. 82-103.
Booklist, September 1, 1985, Denise M. Wilms, review of What's Inside?: The Alphabet Book, p. 64; October 1, 1986, Ilene Cooper, review of When Sheep Cannot Sleep, p. 273; April 15, 1991, Stephanie Zvirin, review of A Boy Wants a Dinosaur, p. 1651; July, 1992, Deborah Abbott, review of From Acorn to Zoo, p. 1943; May 1, 1996, p. 1512: March 1, 2000, Amy Brandt, review of Me and My Cat?, p. 1250; October 1, 2002, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Comic Adventures of Boots, p. 326.
Books for Keeps, September, 1988, Liz Waterland, review of When Sheep Cannot Sleep, pp. 8-9; July, 1995, Wendy Cooling, review of Sheep in Wolves' Clothing, pp. 24-25, 28.
Children's Literature, Volume 19, 1999, Jane Doonan, "Satoshi Kitamura: Aesthetic Dimensions," pp. 107-137.
Growing Point, January, 1987, Margery Fisher, review of When Sheep Cannot Sleep, p. 4745; January, 1990, Margery Fisher, "Picture-Book Adventures," pp. 5269-5272; February, 1990, p. 5269.
Horn Book, November, 1986, Anita Silvey, review of When Sheep Cannot Sleep, pp. 736-737; March, 1990, Nancy Vasilakis, review of UFO Diary, pp. 190-191; May, 1992, N. Vasilakis, review of From Acorn to Zoo, p. 330; January, 1994, N. Vasilakis, review of A Creepy Crawly Song Book, p. 83; July, 1996, Margaret Bush, review of Sheep in Wolves' Clothing, p. 450; March, 2000, review of Me and My Cat?, p. 187.
Horn Book Guide, July-December, 1997, Christine M. Heppermann, review of Goldfish Hide-and-Seek, p. 36; January-June, 1998, Christine M. Heppermann, reviews of Bath-time Boots and A Friend for Boots, p. 98.
Junior Bookshelf, October, 1982, A. Thatcher, review of Angry Arthur, p. 183; October, 1985, R. Baines, review of What's Inside?, p. 212; February, 1987, p. 21; August, 1989, p. 162; February, 1991, S. M. Ashburner, review of Speaking for Ourselves, p. 26.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 1985, review of What's Inside?, p. J26; November 1, 1987, review of Lily Takes a Walk, pp. 1575-1576; August 15, 1989, p. 1247; June 15, 1996, review of Duck Is Dirty, p. 906; June 15, 1997, review of Gold Fish Hide-and-Seek, p. 951; January 1, 1998, review of Bath-time Boots, p. 58; June 1, 2002, review of Comic Adventures of Boots, p. 806.
New York Times Book Review, June 16, 1985, Karla Kuskin, review of What's Inside?, p. 30; March 6, 1988, p. 29; May 21, 1989, John Cech, review of Ned and the Joybaloo, p. 41; May 19, 1991, Francine Prose, review of A Boy Wants a Dinosaur, p. 23; May 19, 1996, David Wiesner, review of "A Job for Elliott Baa, Private Eye," p. 27; May 14, 2000, David Small, review of Me and My Cat?, p. 21; June 1, 2002, review of Comic Adventures of Boots, p. 806.
Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1985, review of In the Attic, p. 158; September 11, 1987, review of Lily Takes a Walk, p. 92; June 24, 1988, review of Ned and the Joybaloo, p. 110; September 30, 1988, review of Captain Toby, p. 65; March 25, 1996, review of Fly with the Birds: A Word and Rhyme Book, p. 82; May 6, 1996, review of Sheep in Wolves' Clothing, p. 80; June 24, 1996, "Animal Pragmatism," p. 62; June 9, 1997, review of Goldfish Hide-and-Seek, p. 44; March 20, 2000, review of Me and My Cat?, p. 91; July 17, 2000, review of Sheep in Wolves' Clothing, p. 198.
Quill & Quire, October, 1989, Susan Perrin, review of UFO Diary, pp. 17-18.
School Librarian, December, 1986, Donald Fry, review of When Sheep Cannot Sleep, p. 337; February, 1988, Margaret Meek, review of Lily Takes a Walk, p. 16; November, 1989, Sue Smedley, review of UFO Diary, p. 145; November, 1990, Angela Redfern, review of Speaking for Ourselves, p. 156; February, 1991, Val Booler, review of A Boy Wants a Dinosaur, p. 20; August, 1992, I. Anne Rowe, review of From Acorn to Zoo, p. 97; November, 1997, Lynne Taylor, review of Goldfish Hide-and-Seek, p. 187.
School Library Journal, September, 1982, Holly Sanhuber, review of Angry Arthur, p. 110; August, 1984, Joan Wood Sheaffer, review of Ned and the Joybaloo, p. 63; September, 1985, Patricia Homer, review of What's Inside?, p. 120; December, 1986, Lorraine Douglas, review of When Sheep Cannot Sleep, pp. 90-91; November, 1987, Kay E. Vandergrift, review of Lily Takes a Walk, pp. 93-94; March, 1989, Patricia Pearl, review of Captain Toby, p. 164; January, 1990, John Peters, review of UFO Diary, p. 84; July, 1992, Mary Lou Budd, review of From Acorn to Zoo, p. 60; January, 1994, Jane Marino, review of A Creepy Crawly Song Book pp. 108-109; March, 1996, Sally R. Dow, review of Fly with the Birds, p. 173; August, 1996, Ann Cook review of Cat Is Sleepy, p. 124; August, 1996, Luann Toth, review of Sheep in Wolves' Clothing, p. 124; October, 1997, Karen James, review of Goldfish Hide-and-Seek, p. 100; March, 2000, Ann Welton, review of Me and My Cat?, p. 209; August, 2002, Linda M. Kenton, review of Comic Adventures of Boots, p. 159.
Times Educational Supplement, November 11, 1994, Mary Gribbin, review of Inside My House, p. 18.
Times Literary Supplement, November 28, 1986, Jane Doonan, review of When Sheep Cannot Sleep, p. 1345; July 7, 1989, Liz Banks, "Picturing Pets," p. 757.*