I’m working on some more name posts, but a couple of them are bigger projects that require some time. In the meantime, here’s a quick post about a book I love.

Cover of "The Little One" by Kiyo Tanaka. Text reads: "The Little One"; Kiyo Tanaka; Translated from Japanese by David Boyd. Black and white drawing shows a small child standing in front of a stone or brick wall, with a little black creature sitting on top of the wall and some tall shrubs and a bit of a building visible behind the wall.

The Little One by Kiyo Tanaka is a magical book. My toddler grabbed it off the shelf at the library one day, and we both absolutely fell in love with it. I think I have bought five copies of the book since then, because I keep giving it to everyone I know. It can be a little bit hard to find, since the American edition comes from a smaller publisher, but it’s worth the extra effort.

What to say about this book? I’d like to just shove the book into your hands and force you to read it with no context, so that you can experience it with fresh eyes, but that’s not how book reviews work.

First of all, the art is beautiful. The illustrations are copperplate etchings, which gives a really unique feel and texture to the book. The pictures are clear and easy for young children to understand, but full of interesting details. Every time we read the book together, we notice something new. The scenes that take place in the dark are especially wonderful – Tanaka turns the black and white lines of copperplate into soft, glowing lights that create an immersive, dreamy environment. 

A spread from the book "The Little One" by Kiyo Tanaka. On the left page, there is text saying, "Where is it going?". On the right page, there is a black and white illustration of a small child following a little black creature down a brightly lit alley.

The text is also a big part of how immersive the story is. The story is told in first person, and the thing I like best about the text is that it doesn’t explain anything more than it needs to. We don’t know the narrator’s name or what happens before or after the story. We don’t get an explanation of who the little one is, or why or how the events of the story happen. The narrator focuses on the events as they happen, and that leaves a lot of questions for readers to think about and discuss.

I think that sense of mystery is what makes The Little One a truly great picture book. When I think of the picture books I really loved as a child, the ones I kept thinking about long after I finished reading the book, most of them share that feeling that there is a bigger story beyond what was in the book.

Please buy this book, read this book, and make all your friends read it too. It’s something really special, I promise.

Publisher: The Little One at Enchanted Lion Books

Author/artist: Kiyo Tanaka has one instagram account focused on her books, another focused on her other art, an artist website, and an online store where you can buy her beautiful prints

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