Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 19 Sep 2023

Lily Takes a Walk by Satoshi Kitamura

Any book from author/illustrator, Satoshi Kitamura is always a big deal here at the Letterpress Project. The Tokyo-born artist has an immediately recognisable style and always brings an appealing sideways perspective to his stories.

Kitamura relocated to London in 1979 to work as a commercial artist but broke into children’s book illustration in 1981 when his talents were spotted by the Andersen Press. His career has gone on from strength to strength and prizes of all kinds have resulted – in Europe and his native Japan.

Although he moved back to Tokyo in 2009, he’s really a citizen of the world and undertakes commissions of all kinds that work alongside his book writing and illustration. Lily Takes A Walk was originally published in 1987 as part of a series called Spooky Surprise but this 2021 edition is brought to us by Scallywag Press who have done a lovely job of repackaging this delightfully off-kilter tale.

One day, Lily and her faithful dog, Nicky set off for a walk around the neighbourhood. For Lily, everything is tranquil and relaxing – walking for ‘hours and hours’ through streets, countryside, markets, under and over bridges and through tunnels until the sun starts to go down and it’s time to head home for supper. For Lily, all is well and before bed she tells mommy and daddy what a great day its been before she heads to bed.

But for Nicky the dog, the walk has been anything but relaxing. As Lily admires the countryside, it’s Nicky who spots the snake in the tree; Lily buys her fruit and vegetables from the barrow but Nicky spots the post-box across the road waiting with its sharp teeth to gobble up passers-by. And is that really a river monster looming up as Lily has her back turned while she’s feeding the ducks?

Each page brings a new shock for poor old Nicky – but these are shocks that Lily never sees. And then, to cap it all, Nicky has to listen to Lily tell the story of her day without being able to give his alternative version.

Even the end of the day brings a new ignominy for poor old Nicky: as Lily sleeps a peaceful sleep and her dog curls up in his basket, the mice come out to taunt the poor old beast.

The influence of comics and comic books on the drawing style of Kitamura is very clear to see and is picked up in the profile of the author/illustrator in Books For Keeps back in 2004:

“As a child in Japan, Kitamura grew up with comics, and these have been a significant influence on his work. Of the western comic artists with which he is familiar, the ones that he speaks of most highly are George Herriman (Crazy Kat) and the great Winsor McCay. This empathy with the comic book form is evident in many of his books. His understanding of the sequential framed image and its potential for expressing time, or changing pace, is used to great effect in many of his picture books……There is a great sense of humanity in all of this work, in the drawing and in the essential good nature of the characters.”

Lily Takes a Walk can be obtained from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have copies on the shelf.


Terry Potter

September 2023