Book of the Month: December 2020

December is the time to read Christmas books and I’m going to share a beautifully illustrated book set in Christmas time – La Visite by Junko Nakamura (editions MeMo 2016). I bought this book a couple years ago but I think the book about anticipation and joy of having a visitor is apt more than ever for this Christmas in the time of pandemic.

The title is in French but this is actually a word-less book (so it’s OK if you don’t speak French). The book follows seemingly unrelated two scenes – a family in the park and a black cat in the window.

The black cat is looking out the window as if he’s expecting someone. Actually he is. Soon he spots his visitor arriving and we are about to witness a strange visit. It’s a white cat but she is a human size in human clothes! And so is the black cat who opens the door for her!

In the intimate and warm light of the living room, the two cats exchange news and drink tea. What does this letter the white cat brought say? We will never know.

Meanwhile, the family enjoy their evening outing, visiting a funfair and strolling by the canal and shops. As she leaves (in normal cat form) the black cat, the white cat passed by the family and you will see the black cat is watching the family walking down the street from the window. Then, you will learn the black cat belongs to the family as they come home.

There is so magical about the way the family have no idea what their cat was up to while they were out. If you are a pet owner, you must have wondered what your pets are up to while you’re out.

I don’t know how Junko Nakamura creates her illustrations but they are beautiful. They reminds me of picture books I read when I was small. What is amazing about the illustrations in this book is how she captures the lights and shadows. From the late afternoon sunlight to the lights on the carousel and shop windows in the evening to the living room lamp stand in the night, Nakamura captures lights so skilfully that you don’t need text to tell the time passing. I think not having any text is a perfect choice. The absence of text creates room for contemplation and imagination.

This book is filled with cosiness and magic of the winter lights and joy of waiting and having a visitor. This year has been strange one that many things we took for granted, like having a visitor, were taken away from us. But at the same time, like this poignant book, this year reminded us how important these small things were.

Regardless if you’re spending this Christmas alone or with family or friends, I wish you very Merry Christmas!

Momoko x

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