Roald Dahl wrote 20 children’s books during his career. Tomi Ungerer did about 40 children’s books. Maurice Sendak produced more than 50 books, and my role model, Lauren Child has published more than 20 books so far and counting. I just started my children’s author-illustrator career last year and I wonder how many books I can and will create before I die.
I’ll tell you my little secret (it’s not that secret actually). I have a bucket list of picture books I want to create before I get too old to hold a pencil. I think this would be a nice way to tell you about myself too. So here it goes…
SELF DISCOVERY STORY
I was born and bred in Japan but I moved to the UK when I was 20. In less than 5 years time, I will have lived here longer than in my home country. Crazy to think of it. Every time I go home for holiday, I feel like a visitor rather than a native, but of course no matter how long I live here it won’t make me a British. It is a troubling feeling and being at peace with who I am, or rather who I have become, has been one of the biggest challenges in my life. Over the years, I’ve learned to see myself ‘unique’ rather than ‘neither’.
I’ve explored this topic in my debut picture book Avocado Asks (will be published from Orchard in April 2020!). This is a story for all the kids in these modern societies where identities are not as simple as they used to be. Hopefully I can write more about making of this book soon.
My friends knows me as Momo the doodler, but I’m also known as an avid baker. I have a blog for my baking and I even have tried to get into the Great British Bake Off once. My nana taught me how to bake and I’ve been baking for as long as I can remember.
My favourite children’s books from my childhood (and ones possibly responsible for my food obsession) were Komatta-san’s cooking adventure series and Wakatta-san’s baking adventure series. A food / baking story to get kids to don a pinny is definitely on my bucket list.
I started ballet when I was 5 and continued until I was 20. I gave up on being a professional dancer at the end but I never regret what I sacrificed my teenhood for. It shaped a huge part of who I am now. And I still go to ballet classes for fun.
There are tens, if not hundreds, of picture books about ballet and being/becoming a ballerina. For example, Angelina Ballerina series, Tiger in a Tutu by Fabi Santiago, and Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp. Ballet I lived and breathed was more than just pink tutu and shiny tiara. It often involved tears and bloody toes, but the reward for your hard work was priceless. One day I would like to write my take on ballet story.
My mum is a huge fan of Agatha Christie and loves detective stories, so naturally I grew up watching Miss Marple and Poirot and reading Raymond Chandler and P.D. James alongside of my mum. We love good mysteries and I’d love to write a story about a little detective who solve a fun (not bloody) mystery in the future in her honour.
I’ve never been popular. I’m good and nice person (I think) but I’ve never been the girl who is bubbly and has lots of friends. At schools, I never belong to one of those ‘A-list’ group at the top of hierarchy. I wasn’t at the bottom either. Just didn’t belong to a group really. I spent most of lunch breaks in the library with a few of my friends. As a grown-up, I’m pretty much the same and I still occasionally compare myself with those popular people on my rainy day, but now I know being popular isn’t that important.
In this social media era, young people are aspired (and pressurred) to be popular, constantly seeking others’ attentions. It must be tough to be a kid nowadays. I’d like to write a story to tell them it’s OK to not to be popular. (By the way, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is on my reading wish list. )
I have a big brother. We are very different and I took his shyness and oddity for weakness for a long time. I was 30 years old when I learned that he had autism and depression and been taking medication all these years. But my view of my brother changed forever when my auntie told me a little anecdote about my brother’s selfless act for me when we were little. It taught me what it truly means to be a big brother. We are not close but we love each other in our own way. One day I’d love to write a story to dedicate to him.
Life is a sequence of time punctuated by those ‘defining’ events and moments that make you or break you. People say what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. One of those events in my life was my dad’s death when I was 16. The hardest bit in the experience was accepting the loss not just because it was my dad but also because I had never lost someone before. I got through though, thanks to my supportive family and friends.
The subject of death is by no means unexplored in picture books. Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtvet, Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch and Grandad’s Island by Benji Davis to name a few. The truth is no matter how good the story is, nothing could prepare you for the real loss. I know that. But if I could share my experience through a book and it helps a kid going through his/her loss, I think my dad would be proud.
I tend to write fictional stories but I love reading biographical picture books and one day I’d like to give it a go at it myself (there are/were so many inspirational and interesting people in the world). Biographical picture books are popular and the quality of them are getting higher and higher. To list a few of my favourites, Shackelton’s Journey by Willian Garill, Mary and Frankenstein by Linda Bailey, Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez, and One Day in Wonderland: A Celebration of Lewis Carroll’s Alice by Kathleen Krull.
Just because I love cats.
I’m sure this list will grew as I get older but this is my picture book bucket list for now and I hope I can tick off all of them one day!