A surreal symphony of vibrant colors and images, Sato the Rabbit* is a whimsical trilogy of picture books for readers age 4-8:
One day, Haneru Sato became a rabbit.
He’s been a rabbit ever since.
He likes stars, the ocean, and tasty treats. He likes lots of other things, too.
What young child hasn’t imagined being an animal at some point?
Drawn as a human-faced rabbit, replete with cottontail and long ears, Sato walks on two legs rather than four, has arms, and looks a good deal like a human in a rabbit costume—a very charming one. The writing ranges from plain, prosaic prose that leaves room for the illustrations to breathe, to more poetic verbal imagery, in which a few basic words paint an evocative picture.
The books each consist of vignettes in which Sato transforms nature or food. In one, he pulls the crescent moon out of a forest as a boat. In another, he rolls up a carpet of fallen autumn leaves and carries it to a wedding, where he unfurls it for the bride and groom to walk across. Rain turns into a party of streamers and sound; walnuts become cozy rooms. In another wonderful vignette, the steam from a cup of tea becomes a “windswept forest” and “a night sky filled with stars,” after which the narrator muses:
What will Sato’s drink become today? Sato is really looking forward to teatime.
As are we.
Yet trying to use bald words here to describe the way the images are transformed in this delightful, dreamy trilogy robs them of what makes them so meaningful. For imagery and metaphor are at the core of these sweet books:
The ice in the forest comes in many colors.
This is because it is made from water containing all the events of spring, summer, and fall…
Returning home, Sato drinks a glass of cold tea made with blue ice.
Sorrow is frozen into this ice, giving it a sad flavor.
He melts some orange ice and a happy aura fills the room.
But what Sato likes best of all is floating a little ice of each color in milk and drinking it.
As each piece of ice slowly melts, Sato enjoys sipping stories late into the night.
In the end, much like the visions most of us point to when we look up at the clouds, all three books in Sato the Rabbit are a satisfying ode to the deep power—and beauty—of the imagination.
Sato the Rabbit, Sato the Rabbit, The Moon, and Sato the Rabbit, A Sea of Tea
Written by Yuki Ainoya
Translated from the Japanese by Michael Blaskowsky
2021, 2021, and 2022, Enchanted Lion Books
ISBN: 13: 9781592703180, 978-1-59270-306-7, 978-1-59270-355-5
Awards: 2022 Mildred L. Batchelder Honor Book; 2021 Hornbook Fanfare Selection; Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book of 2021
Review copies kindly provided by the publisher.
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Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of 70 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, German and Spanish into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her translations, Luisa: Now and Then and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Her recent translations are Magical History Tour #5: The Plague, Bibi & Miyu#2, The Sisters #7: Lucky Brat, Magical History Tour #7: Gandhi,, For Justice: The Serge and Beate Klarsfeld Story, LGBTQ YA manga Alter Ego, and the critically acclaimed A House Without Windows.