The Lost Kitten is Lee’s first story, but Sakai has over a dozen books on offer, with most of them on initial release in Germany and the UK. She has won awards around the world, including the Japan Picture Book Prize, a Golden Plaque at the Biennial of Illustrations in Slovakia, and a Silver Griffin in the Netherlands. Her style is a cross between photographic realism and messy charcoals. A sort of soft focus treatment. It’s a delightful way of approaching what is really a very simple tale.
This thirty-six-page book is the simplest of stories, so readers must inject their own personality and interpretations between the words. Lee offers no background or clues about the identities of these characters. They are as thin as the chalk and wash on the page. To make them three dimensional you have to add your own personality. Sometimes, it’s what’s missing that gives you the substance.
The plot is: a small kitten, the runt of the litter, is abandoned at the door of Hina and her mother. They slowly fall in love with the kitten who is not expected to get well, but she does. Then mother leaves and the kitten runs away. Hina sets out to find her new little friend. It was here that my five-year-old, reading the story for the first time, started to add her own interpretation of the facts. What if she can’t find the kitten? Or…? And so, the magic unfolds slowly over the next pages as we read further, discussing scenarios and discovering more of the plot on every page.
The book’s simple language works well for early readers – about year 2 – and for caregivers who love to read out loud. It’s the kind of simple hardback that will make a wonderful gift for a young child. But remember, it’s not just the book you’ll be giving: you must also be around to read it, to make it more than just words and pictures on the page. Then you’ve found something really special.
Reviewed by Tim Gruar
The Lost Kitten
Written by Lee, Illustrated by Komako Sakai
Published by Gecko Press