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Book review: Hannah’s Night, by Komoko Sakai, translated by Cathy Hirano

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 26, 2013


Hannah's NightHannah’s Night is a simple story about a little girl who wakes up in the middle of the night and explores her home without her family’s knowledge.  Written and illustrated by Japanese author/illustrator Komoko Sakai, it would make a lovely companion piece to Margaret Wild’s The Midnight Gang (2004).   The Midnight Gang

In both these stories, small children discover a world of adventure.  Hannah first tries to wake her sister, and then establishes that her parents are asleep too.  She is accompanied by her cat, Shiro, and she has a small taste of independence when she gives the cat some milk and eats some cherries without asking – and no one tells her off.  She borrows her sisters doll, her music box, and her drawing things, and takes them back to bed to play with.  She looks out of the window but does not venture outside, eventually falling asleep again on her sister’s bed.

Baby Brenda’s midnight gang is more adventurous.  The reader can tell that Brenda often ditches her nappy  and scrambles through the cat door because her friends are all waiting for her.  Her wild adventures in the park include a trip to the stars, but like Hannah, Brenda eventually toddles back to where she belongs and no one is the wiser.

These books appeal to small children, because they love the idea of having secret adventures that their families know nothing about.  Hannah’s Night is simpler and less venturesome, but the illustrations are darker and convey the mild sense of danger that Hannah feels.  Ann James’s illustrations for The Midnight Gang are more whimsical and the children have cute cheeky faces.

I have been thinking for a while of building a shelf collection of picture books from Asian countries to support the cross-curriculum priority Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia, and while all I have at the moment for my ‘Japanese shelf’ are books by Junko Morimoto, Hannah’s Night could be the start of a ‘country study’ of Japanese authors, exploring the sense of restraint, calm and containment that (in my experience with adult fiction and a few picture books) characterises Japanese literature.  I am mulling over ideas for how to approach this concept…

Author: Komoko Sakai
Title: Hannah’s Night
Translated by Cathy Hirano
Publisher: Gecko Press, New Zealand, 2013
Source: Review copy courtesy of Scott Eathorne from Quikmark Media

Availability
Fishpond:
Hannah’s Night
The Midnight Gang (if you are lucky, there might be a second-hand copy there, if not try Brotherhood Books.

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