Written and illustrated by Komako Sakai
Gecko Press, 2013, 32 pp.
Hannah wakes up in the middle of the night. Her cat, Shiro, is the only one who wakes up with her. Hannah’s mom and dad keep sleeping soundly even when Hannah gives milk to Shiro and eats cherries in the kitchen. Hannah’s night adventure continues as she plays with a doll, a music box, a notebook and colored pencils. Hannah has so much fun because her sister is sleeping and doesn’t know that Hannah is playing with the sister’s belongings. The night comes to an end, and so does Hannah’s adventure as she gets sleepy and falls asleep again.
Hannah’s Night was originally published in Japan in 2012 as, “はんなちゃんが めをさましたら (Hannachanga mewo samashitara, When Hanna Wakes Up – translated by the reviewer) and was translated into English in 2013. The Japanese version of the book has a different cover than the English version. On the Japanese cover, Hannah is sitting up with a blanket around her, but on the English cover, Hannah is lying in bed. A simple storyline is described with short sentences in Hannah’s Night. Illustrations are captured in rounded edge frames. Frames in Sakai’s illustrations create an illusion that readers are watching Hannah through a camera lens during the night, but Hannah doesn’t know that she is watched. Since Hannah plays in the night so quietly, young readers will stay calm while reading or listening to the story and quietly follow Hannah’s steps.
Sakai used dark blue colors throughout the book that create a sense of the deep night. Even very young children who cannot yet read will have no problem with experiencing Hannah’s adventure as Sakai’s illustrations explain the story by themselves. In fact, in one interview, Sakai said that she tries to illustrate so that the illustrations directly tell a story to readers.
Komako Sakai is a Japanese children’s author and illustrator who was born in Hyogo, Japan. She studied at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and worked at a kimono textile design company after graduation. Kaisei-sha publishing company introduces her as one of the most popular children’s book authors and illustrators in Japan. She uses acrylic paints and oil colored pencils as the main art mediums for her illustrations. According to Scholastic (http://www.arthuralevinebooks.com), Sakai’s work has been recognized around the world with awards and honor titles. In the U.S, Emily’s Balloon (2006) was selected as an ALA Notable Children’s Book and a Horn Book Fanfare title. The Snow Day (2009) was one of Publishers Weekly best books of 2009 and New York Times best illustrated children’s books of 2009. Other of Sakai’s books that are available in the U.S are Mad at Mommy (2010), In the Meadow (2011, written by Yukiko Kato), and Wait! Wait! (2013, written by Hatsue Nakawaki).
The story shows a universal experience that any child may have regardless of their gender. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (2011) by Sherri Duskey Rinker (author) and Tom Lichtenheld (illustrator) can be paired with Hannah’s Night as a bedtime story. The Big Book of Slumber (2014) by Giovanna Zoboli (author) and Simona Mulazzani (illustrator) can be also added to the bedtime story collection. Komako Sakai’s books can be grouped with Allen Say’s books for a Japanese author study. However, unlike Say’s books, Sakai’s books do not introduce Japanese culture to readers. As seen in Hannah’s Night, Sakai’s books show more universal experiences and are suitable for young children.
Jongsun Wee, Winona State University, Winona, MN