Nitto, Tomio 1945-

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Nitto, Tomio 1945-


Born November 15, 1945, in Yamagata, Japan; son of Toichi (a farmer) and Kikuyo (a homemaker) Nitto. Ethnicity: "Asian." Education: Attended Nippon Design School, 1965-67, and George Brown College, 1972. Hobbies and other interests: Bicycling, sketching, hermiting.


Home—Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Agent—Reactor Art and Design, Ltd., 51 Camden St., Toronto, Ontario M5V 1V2, Canada.


Illustrator. K2 Design, Tokyo, Japan, illustrator, until 1971; freelance illustrator, 1980—; Reactor Art and Design, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, illustrator, 1986—.


Prime Minister's Award, Mainichi, 1970, for ad design; merit award, North American Newspaper Design, Print Magazine Design Annual, 1983; merit award, Society of Publication Designers, 1986; merit award, Toronto Art Director's Club, 1987; excellence award, Educational Press Association of America, 1987; best illustration award, Western Magazine Awards, 1989; silver award, Toronto Art Director's Club, 1989.


The Red Rock: A Graphic Fable, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including Boston Globe Magazine, Canadian Business, CBC Radio Guide, Esquire, L'Expansion, Executive, Financial Post Magazine, Homemaker's, Owl, Report on Business, Saturday Night, Toronto Life, West, CA Magazine, Graduate, Washington Post Magazine, PC Computing, and New Jersey Monthly.


Tomio Nitto is a Japanese illustrator. Nitto studied graphic design in Tokyo, Japan, before moving to Toronto, Canada, in the early 1970s. He continued his studies and worked for several design companies. His illustrations are found in movies, major commercial projects, and in a wide range of periodicals.

After years of illustrating, Nitto illustrated and composed his first book. Published in 2006, The Red Rock: A Graphic Fable relates an environmental tale to younger readers. Nitto sets the story in a beautiful valley, where the various animals have lived at peace for as long as anyone can remember. Eventually developers move into the valley and begin cutting down trees and clearing land with the intent of building a luxury resort on the premises. The animals watch their homes being destroyed and some lose their life in the process. Old Beaver and the other animals are virtually helpless to stop the machinery. However, Old Beaver then dreams that the ubiquitous red rock that sits in their valley gives him the strength to stop the developers, and he does just that. As the animals work to prevent the developers from destroying their pasture, the book's side story involves a human girl doing her part to protect the environment in a nearby town.

Reviewing the book in Quill & Quire, Jeffrey Canton described it as "a powerful and deeply moving environmental fable told in a friendly cartoon-like style that's inspired by animé." Canton added that "Nitto delicately balances a playful sense of humour with a serious message." Ellen Healey, writing in CM Magazine, thought that "storytelling does not appear to be his forte." As for the illustrations, Healey commented that "the colour art that makes up the main part of the book is generally unsophisticated, although the double-spread of anxious bugs … has some feeling behind it." Kathy Piehl, writing in School Library Journal, noted that The Red Rock "definitely lives up to its subtitle." As for the superhero beaver, Piehl remarked, however, that even environmentalists may "wonder if such didacticism and wishful thinking do anything to spread an environmental message." Booklist contributor Kat Kan felt that the book is "a little preachy." Kan concluded, however, that "children will enjoy listening to the text, and may especially like the comic-book section," where they can imaginatively compose their own words.

Tomio Nitto told CA: "I grew up with insects and small animals in fields of farmland, and I believe that nature is the best teacher of all. I love nature very much. It teaches me many things, and I receive lots of ideas from nature for illustration, painting, and stories.

"I have two authors from whom I learned such ideas about how to live. The first is from the Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu—do nothing. This means one should trust nature, respect nature, and have a deep sense of connection with nature and the universe. The second is from Henry David Thoreau's book Walden—simplicity is best.

"As for getting inspiration for writing The Red Rock—the Indian spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘There is enough on earth for everybody's need, but not for everybody's greed.’ As human greediness grows, the natural areas where animals and plants live are shrinking!

"I am a guinea-pig who lives without a TV, computer, or a car."



Booklist, April 15, 2006, Kat Kan, review of The Red Rock: A Graphic Fable, p. 54.

CM Magazine, March 3, 2006, Ellen Heaney, review of The Red Rock.

Library Media Connection, November 1, 2006, Joan Kimball, review of The Red Rock, p. 70.

Quill & Quire (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January, 2006, Jeffrey Canton, review of The Red Rock.

School Library Journal, May, 2006, Kathy Piehl, review of The Red Rock, p. 96.

[Sketch reviewed by the author's representative, Bill Grigsby.]