Some children’s stories feel destined for bedtime reading, and Hannah’s Night is one of them, with the framed images on each page becoming squares in a richly textured quilt. As the title suggests, the story is about Hannah, who wakes in the night to find everyone else deeply asleep. Accompanied by her feline partner in crime, Shiro, Hannah embarks on a quietly thrilling night of delights.
Komako Sakai is a well-loved and awarded children’s author, famed for books like Yoru Kuma (Night Bear), Emily’s Balloon and The Snow Day. She’s a graduate of the Tokyo University of the Arts, formerly a designer of kimono and traditional textiles. Her background is clear from the illustrations, and a real asset in terms of creating multi-layered images that are dense and touchable. The book’s images appear to be created from acrylic colour and oil pencils, with sweeping colours to produce a dreamy atmosphere, and more detailed drawings for objects and close-ups.
Sakai allows her images to take centre stage, with each framed illustration giving the sense of gazing through a window. This is particularly apparent when Hannah looks out from her bedroom at the neighbourhood, and we’re reminded about a child’s perspective on the world. The pictures perfectly evoke the pre-dawn light, formed around a palette of blues, greys and blacks. They provide a dramatic and carefully detailed depiction of Hannah’s surroundings. Also effective is the sense of movement created in both the cat and child’s forms, for instance as Shiro stretches out, or Hannah reaches across her sister’s bed.
The enchanting illustrations are complemented by a sweet narrative about Hannah’s minor transgressions in the night, stealing cherries from the fridge and borrowing her sister’s toys. There’s a sense of fun right through to the dawn break, at which point, young readers might rest their eyes and await their own nocturnal adventures.
Reviewed by Caitlin Sinclair
By Komako Sakai
Published by Gecko Press