Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Japanese picture books

Especially when I was younger, I used to imagine being able to play in the clouds. To me they looked like castles and chariots. When I had the opportunity to take an airplane trip, I’d even fancy myself climbing out of the window and taking a ride on the those billowy balls of cotton. For these reasons, I welcomed Sora and the Cloud by Felicia Hoshino.

A young boy who likes to climb steps from a tree onto a friendly low-hanging cloud, which takes him for a ride. Sora and his new friend float up into the sky where they view the city landscape. There’s a skyscraper, where Sora’s father works. Then there’s an amusement park, with rides that “whirl in a kaleidoscope of motion”. Next there are kites, which “swirl and squeal”. Higher up are fireworks, which whisper “like the soft pitter-pattering of your heart”. Sora even gets to meet some rain clouds. There’s plenty of adventure to be experienced when riding on a cloud!

The story text is simple, with most pages just having one to two sentences, and can be easily read by young readers. Speech bubbles enhance the story. The soft pastel illustrations are pleasing on the eye, and gently compliment the whimsical story with their combination of quiet hues, mixed paint formats, and colored papers. Spreads are intricately detailed and provides young readers with entrancing visuals. One reviewer also noted that if the detailed illustrations aren’t enough, readers can play spot-the-squirrel! Hoshino has hidden an adorable squirrel on almost every page. So far, all is good.

Hoshino wanted Sora and the Cloud to be bilingual, both English and Japanese, so that she and her husband could enjoy reading it to their children in each of their natives languages. On this level it succeeds as a multicultural text. If one takes the time to read the back pages, one will also appreciate the notes on the Japanese expressions. One problem I have here though is that young American readers, however, tend to overlook supplementary features. Another problem I have, because I am trying to evaluate whether this picture book should be included or not in a multicultural collection, is that  Sora and the Cloud felt very “American” to me. For example, the pictures are all of San Francisco and the main characters seem to have blonde hair, which goes against my preconceptions of Asians. However, this is also where I admit to an inexperienced eye, because other reviewers have observed such visuals as the use of chopsticks by the father. Also, the back pages do refer to cultural inspirations to at least four of the illustrations.

Whether or not one discerns Japanese culture in it,  Sora and the Cloud is an imaginative and pleasant story. Many of those who have purchased Sora and the Cloud have referred to their pleasure at finding such an enjoyable book with a bilingual translation. Seems like a win-win situation for all readers.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

A noted children’s artist, Hoshino authors her first picture book, inspired by her own experiences as a mother. The growing boy Sora enjoys the ultimate daydream–to soar like a cloud!


So reads the back of Sora and the Cloud by Felicia Hoshina. I’ll review this book tomorrow. Save the date: April 23!

HoshinoFBorn and raised in California, Hoshino found that she liked to create things with her hands. In particular, Hoshino liked to draw. Paper Tigers reports that her parents were supportive of her budding dreams to become an artist, but it wasn’t until her junior year in high school that Hoshino took her first official art class. Her instructor not only was built like a football player, but also had a deep voice and dark sunglasses, which seemed to contrast with how delicate he was with his paintbrush. As such, he changed Hoshino’s perception of who she thought an artist was or should be. Hoshino went onto attend City College of San Francisco, where she enrolled in as many art classes as she could find, and to obtain her Bachelor of Fine Arts at California College of the Arts.

After graduating, still unsure of her path, Hoshino told Paper Tigers that she worked at Naganuma Design & Direction for three years, where she applied her illustration skills and learned a lot about the graphic design process. At this job, Hoshino also picked up computer skills that she could apply to her illustration work.

After taking classes specifically about illustrating children’s books, Hoshino created promotional postcards and sent them out to various publishers. It took about a year before she received her first response, which came from an imprint of Lee & Low. Her first book project, notes Paper Tigers, was the first of many enjoyable challenges. Hoshino’s prize-winning illustrations can now be seen in children’s magazines such as Cricket, Spider, and Ladybug, along with children’s books.

In addition to creating mixed-media images for children’s books and magazines, Hoshino enjoys illustrating children’s portraiture, cooking with her husband, and decorating the walls at home with art created by her son and daughter.


This wonderful flight of fancy is created in Hoshina’s evocative style of mixed media.


Hoshino’s preferred techniques are pen and ink, watercolor and collage, and she usually likes to combine them. Most of her illustrations are created on tissue paper or cold press watercolor paper.

Plus the bilingual Japanese translation highlights the empowering themes of self-discovery and cultural exchange.


The Japanese translation was done by Akiko Hisa, a native of Japan, and friend of Hoshino. According to Hoshino’s About, Hisa too studied fine arts in California. She enjoys finding ways to combine her creativity with her cultural background. When she was young, like the main character Sora, she really thought clouds were made out of cotton candy!


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