Kitamura’s Sheep – Book Reviews

I am continuing last week’s Asian theme by highlighting today a very successful Japanese picture book author/illustrator. Satoshi Kitamura is known for quirky perspectives, brilliant watercolors, great detail and unique, humorous characters. After winning the Mother Goose Award for the Most Exciting Newcomer to British Illustration in 1983 for Angry Arthur (written by Hiawyn Oram), he moved from Japan to the United Kingdom, where he was based in London until returning to Tokyo in 2008.

When Sheep Cannot Sleep – The Counting Book

This story about an insomniac sheep named Woolly, is full of surprises. There is a counting theme that runs from page one through to the end. But there is also an element of mystery and suspense, as well as the absurd and a lot of fun. I love the fact that none of the objects are enumerated, but you will surely need to be a patient narrator as every child is going to want to count the: six squirrels, or ten UFO’s, or fifteen pictures that Wooly has drawn, right through to the twenty two Z’s when he finally falls asleep. There is, of course, a whole story to follow about what Wooly is actually up to on his nocturnal search for sleep.

Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing

Georgina, Hubert and Gogol, decide they want one last swim in the sea before winter. Unfortunately, these three trusting sheep leave their coats with a bunch of seemingly friendly wolves on the beach. Now coatless, they head for the city and the help of the private detective, Elliott Baa, and a crazy gang of rugby-playing cats. As you can imagine the is a crazy, funny, silly story of detection, full of action and detailed illustrations that will delight children. These wily wolves are actually running an underground knitwear company, called Wolfgang and Bros, but will they outwit the cunning and camaraderie of the sheep+cat brigade? Kitamura often puts several illustrations on one page, in a cartoon-like style in this story and children will want to pore over the vivid details.

As we work our way towards the end of PiBoIdMo, trying to come up with as many unique picture book ideas as we can, I enjoyed reviewing an author who understands so well how to juxtapose ridiculous individuals and scenarios in a story, in order to capture the silly that kids love so much. I do recommend that you look up Satoshi Kitamura in your local library, for inspiration.

#109 & 110 in There’s a Book’s Read to Me Picture Book Challenge.

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15 Responses to Kitamura’s Sheep – Book Reviews

  1. These look wonderful and would make a great compliment to Susanna’s book Can’t Sleep without Sheep. I especially like the pirate one.

    • Joanna says:

      Catherine, having interviewed Susanna a few weeks back I am desperate to read some of her books. Sadly, There are none in our school library and they are not yet translated into French. I will however, be in NYC over New Year and plan to spend a few hours in the wonderful City Library, catching up!

  2. Susanna says:

    I loved Sheep In Wolves’ Clothing, but I haven’t read the other one. I’ll have to add it to my list. Kitamura is so creative an fun! Thanks for sharing. (And Catherine, thanks for mentioning Can’t Sleep Without Sheep :))

  3. Joanna says:

    He really is a gifted author/illustrator, knowing exactly what makes a child laugh!

  4. Oh, I *NEED* to read these books! They sound like such fun. Of course, our public library doesn’t have them. (I’m getting so good at requesting things in the province-wide system!)

    At least our library has Susanna’s “Can’t Sleep without Sheep” — we’re doing SOMETHING right!

    Lucky you — going to NYC over New Years! Enjoy!

  5. Joanna says:

    Glad you at least have access to some of Susanna’s, Beth.

    Actually, Christmas is my fairly annual trip to New Brunswick, Canada, and as I fly through NYC, I decided, now I know and love it, to do a stopover on the return journey.

  6. Cortney says:

    Those books look so cute!!

  7. Joanna says:

    Makes me want to hang with the sheep 😉

  8. Patricia Tilton says:

    A wonderful review of Kitamura books. I am not familar with any of them, but will check them out at the library. Liked the Sheep Can’t Sleep and Counting book, but especially loved the humor and quirkiness of Wolves in Sheep Clothing. The books look so bold — they are both done in watercolor? Great shares. I love to learn about new authors. Great post and thanks! Pat

    • Joanna says:

      Pat, it will be interesting to see which Kitamura books are in your library. @Angry Arthur# is also another well-known one of his. I believe they are watercolor, but assume most illustrations are touched up digitally these days!

  9. I haven’t read either of these but they sound like great finds. Thanks, as always, for these great reviews!

  10. Joanna says:

    Thanks, Julie, they are fun verbal and visual reads!

  11. Loved these book reviews and especially the 2nd one. Such bold colours, Must look out for them here. Thanks for sharing Joanna.

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