Imai, Ayano 1980–

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Imai, Ayano 1980–


Born 1980, in England; immigrated to Japan, 1994. Education: Mausashino Art University (Tokyo, Japan). degree (Japanese painting).


Home and office—Chiba, Japan.


Author and illustrator. Exhibitions: Work included in illustration exhibit at Bologna Book Fair, 2003-06.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrator (Tokyo).

Awards, Honors

Cambridgeshire Children's Picture Book Award shortlist, 2007, for The 108th Sheep.



The 108th Sheep, Tiger Tales (Wilton, CT), 2007.

Chester, Minedition (New York, NY), 2007.

Imai's books have been translated into several languages, including German.


Ayano Imai spent much of her childhood moving from place to place—born in England, she has also lived in the United States—but she now makes her home in Japan. A graduate of Tokyo's Mausashino Art University, Imai studied Japanese painting, and this study has greatly influenced the softly detailed, stylized art she creates for her internationally acclaimed picture books. Her first picture book, The 108th Sheep, is characteristic of her work, with its soft-edged pencil-and-water color images and simple story.

In The 108th Sheep, a young girl named Emma is having difficulty falling asleep in her great big bed, so she turns to the time-honored method of counting sheep. Soon one sheep follows the other, each bounding over her bed's headboard with its number painted on its fleecy belly. Sheep number 108 is too small to make the jump, however, and soon Emma has put all her concentration into finding a way to help the small sheep clear the large headboard so that both sheep and child can get some sleep. Noting the book's creative approach, a Publishers Weekly contributor added that "Imai maintains a sleepytime atmosphere with lots of soft, smoky shading" on heavy, textured paper, while a Kirkus Reviews critic cited the book's "invitingly broad, spacious look." The "understated suspense and wry humor" in The 108th Sheep "should lull even mildly insomniac children into dreamland," the Kirkus Reviews contributor added.

Chester, a second picture book by Imai, introduces readers to a black-and-white dog who feels ignored by his human family. Gathering his doggy possessions—including his dog house—Chester heads off into the wide world to look for a place he will be happy, but even a life of material comforts in the home of a wealthy woman leaves the pup feeling unfulfilled. Finally, Chester finds his way home, in a story that Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper dubbed "a small gem" on the strength of Imai's "delicate" and "almost surrealistic" artwork. A "simply told but meaningful story," according to a Kirkus Reviews writer, Chester "will resonate with children who themselves might feel a little under-appreciated."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, June 1, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Chester, p. 70; June 1, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of The 108th Sheep, p. 79.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2007, review of The 108th Sheep, p. 124; August 15, 2007, review of Chester.

Publishers Weekly, March 5, 2007, review of The 108th Sheep, p. 60.

School Library Journal, May, 2007, Martha Simpson, review of The 108th Sheep, p. 100; December, 2007, Judith Constantinides, review of Chester, p. 90.


Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Tokyo Web site, (June 19, 2008), "Ayano Imai."