Author/Illustrator: Atelier Sentō (Cécile Brun & Olivier Pichard)
Translator: Marie Velde
My rating: 3 of 5
On their visit to Japan, two young folks from France come into possession of an old, plastic camera that–so they are told–is specially made so as to be able to photograph yokai or spirits. Fascinated by the idea, they take pictures at sites reported to be haunts of yokai, tracing down legends around the country. But they won’t know until the roll’s finished and they’re back home whether it actually worked.
I feel like I should preface my review of Onibi by saying that it generally has positive reviews on Goodreads and has even won an award . . . because generally speaking, my own personal review isn’t that great, so maybe I’m totally missing something. I think a lot of my issue is just mistaken expectations. I mean, looking at this book–both the cover and the description–it looks like some cool graphic novel of a couple of kids going around hunting yokai. Which sounds awesome, incidentally. In actuality, this is more of a graphic memoir/travelogue of the authors’ visit to Japan. And that’s cool and all . . . if that had been what I was wanting to read. But being what it was, I was disappointed by an overall lack of plot and character development. You barely even see the main characters’ names mentioned, and their personalities don’t really come through at all–barring their penchant to be curious and seek out yokai legends. So yes, not an actual fictional story proper, more a fantasized adaptation of reality. On the other hand, to give credit where it’s due, when seen as what it is, Onibi does have its good points. Probably the best part is its depictions of rural Japan; you get some lovely landscapes and drawings of small towns. The art is nice in general–pretty typical western graphic novel style throughout. And the actual photographs at the end of each chapter were eerie and cool, much like some of the pics you see in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children–the ones that you know are some trick of lighting or such, but it totally looks like there’s a ghost or something. So yeah, as a travelogue, Onibi is a pretty interesting tour of some of the more rural areas of Japan . . . just don’t look to it for a lot of plot and such.
Illustrations by Kiyohiko Azuma/Photography by Miho Kakuta
My rating: 5 of 5
This gorgeous, adorable artbook features photographs from Japan, mostly of somewhat rural settings and everyday situations. And inserted into each and every photograph is an illustration of the world’s most amusing and cute kiddo ever–Yotsuba! Suddenly, each picture is both beautiful and fun.
Yotsuba&! is one of my absolute favorite stories, manga or otherwise. So naturally, I was delighted to discover there was an artbook available. But wow, FiND YOTSUBA surpassed my expectations. The photos themselves are a fabulous window into everyday Japanese life; they’re lovely. And the way Azuma-sensei fits Yotsuba into the pictures is wonderful. He manages to match color and lighting, use shadows and reflections brilliantly, play with the visual focus points, and even include the photo-blur you get when something moves too quickly to make her place in the pictures seem more natural. Sometimes, you have to pull a real “where’s Waldo” looking for her. And what really pulls everything together is that way that, even without any text or connecting storyline, Yotsuba’s personality, the way she’s so full of life and excitement, carries through so strongly in the pictures. They made me smile–a lot–and even laugh aloud at points. Highly recommended, particularly for fans of the manga, but also just for people who love cute things.
Author: Lori Evert
Photographs by: Per Breiehagen
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Once upon a time, a little girl named Anja went to visit her cousins at their mountain farm. The three of them went out into the meadows, reveling in the glories of the new spring, and eventually deciding on a game of hide-and-seek. Only Anja keeps being following by a young goat that’s taken a shine to her, making it impossible for her to hide effectively. Frustrated, Anja wishes that she were so tiny that she’d be able to hide with ease . . . and remarkably, she gets her wish! What follows is a delightful romp, exploring the beauties of the mountains and having fun with all the animals who now seem huge–and able to talk with Anja. For a curious girl like Anja, this is the perfect wish!
The Tiny Wish is an absolute magical treat! I’ve seen any number of picture books that are illustrated with photographs–and that are remarkably dull. I actually tend to avoid this sort of book, usually. But The Tiny Wish is different. For one thing, it’s not just a medium to show off the photographs; there’s a rich, vibrant, imaginative, and thrilling story that will resonate with the hearts of little girls young and old. Anja’s character is charming, and the adventure of exploring the world from such a tiny, up-close perspective is delightful! In addition, the photography and digital editing work on this book is quite stunning. The settings, colors, and design are vivid and striking, and while the photographs are obviously by necessity composite works, they appear absolutely seamless. And just seeing the flowers and animals and such in such up-close detail is really neat, too. Also, I really like the design of the book itself; the way the pictures, type, blank space, and little extra designs are all fit together works really well. Finally, I really love that this is a family project–the mom’s the author, the dad’s the illustrator, and the daughter is the model for Anja–how fun is that? I would definitely recommend The Tiny Wish, especially for reading aloud with little girls who are full of curiosity about the world themselves.