Friday, September 22, 2017

Spotlight on #OwnVoices: The Lost Kitten

The Lost Kitten by LEE. Illustrated by Komako Sakai. Translated from Japanese. Gecko Press, 2017. ISBN 9781776571260. Click here to purchase.
The cover of The Lost Kitten.

After discovering a “skinny, scruffy kitten” on their doorstep, Hina and her mother are surprised when a cat (with other healthy kittens in tow) nods at them from a distance, as if signaling to the humans to help. “They had never been asked to do something by a cat before.”

The mom and daughter spring into action, cleaning the animal and crafting a litter box, bed, and collar for it. Hina’s not psyched about the whole idea at first (“If we’re going to have a kitten I’d rather get a cute one”), but her affection grows after taking in the kitten’s gorgeous blue eyes and spending time holding it. (“Just thinking about the kitten made her happy.”)  When Mom heads out for cat food and leaves the kitten in the care of Hina (and Hina in the care of her grandmother), Hina loses sight of the kitten. She searches far and wideunder furniture, in the bathroom, outdoorsand recalls a frightening time when she was lost and separated from her mother at a store. (“That was how the kitten must feel.”) With empathy and resolve, she keeps searching, even as the sun starts to set and a breeze whooshes through her yard. She heads inside (dropping her shoes in the genkan) and as she
Image from in which Hina and her mother meet the kitten. 
reaches for her coat she discovers the kitten napping peacefully on her sweater. Mom returns home with the cat food, and Hina, overcome with relief, has a cry. When she’s done, she and her mom decide to name the napping kitten “Sleepy,” and smile at the surprise in store for Grandma when she learns about the new pet. The story ends with questions from Hina to Sleepy: “‘Sleepy, let’s be friends forever, okay?’ Hey, stop sleeping so much. Are you listening, Sleepy?’”

Sakai’s illustrations, rendered with paint and pencil, contain scratches and smudges which give them texture and a feeling of coziness. When the scary flashback occurs, Sakai smartly uses blue page borders to separate this part of narrative from the rest of the story. The mostly-subdued color palette makes for stand-out moments of vibrancy, such as spotting the kitten’s bright blue eyes for the first time or the beautiful pink sunset. The gentle, translated text is full of poetic simplicity and it highlights the wonders of each moment. In both text and image the story is child-centered, as Hina’s experiences, questions, emotions, and concerns are what pull readers in and weave a suspenseful and heartfelt story out of a seemingly ordinary turn of events.

Reviewed by Elisa Gall.

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