Cockles and heart

I used to feel envious of my parents when I was a kid because they received so many letters! My dad always said it was usually boring stuff but I was never really convinced. Now that I’m an adult; he was right. I have a chunky pile of bills to pay at the moment that I’m trying not to think about.

Personal letters, cards and packages on the other hand, still feel exciting and intimate. I’m not great at sending birthday and Christmas cards (I sit there staring at the blank cards and wonder how I can express myself in a fresh way for every card) but sometimes I create little packages to send to people. Somehow, I appreciate small gifts more than large presents. Some homemade cookies or a new car? Even though a car is obviously the more materially significant gift, it just doesn’t warm the cockles of my heart like the ‘I saw this and thought of you’ kind. I know I know, I sound like an ungrateful brat! But hey, if you want to buy me a new ride, I’m open to any offers…

With a New Year, I look back on the previous 12 months and this makes me feel a bit flat. But each day is an improvement on the previous in 2012 so far. Today I collected from the post office a package from my author/artist friend Satoshi Kitamura and his wife. I wrote a post about his work last month. Included were his two latest published books. First up is Goldilocks on CCTV with poems written by John Agard. John is a well known British poet of Caribbean (Guyana) background.

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Also Pumpkin Grumpkin – Nonsense Poems from Around the World. This is a poetry anthology with pieces collected by John Agard and his wife Grace Nichols. They’re both regular collaborators with Satoshi Kitamura.

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What I really love about Satoshi Kitamura’s illustrations of other people’s work is that since they often aren’t picture books, they’re geared for an older audience. The images are darker and there’s a scratchy quality that’s more evident than in his own stories. Since there’s no narrative as such, the illustrations don’t have to be consistent in style and composition. He helps dictate the overall feel of the book by designing the layout with words and images working closely together. The writing bounces around the page, dancing with his drawings. Poetry anthology illustrations really allow you to see some of the range and breadth of his work.

All books are available for purchase through online booksellers such as Amazon or even better, your friendly local bookstore.

Also in the package was a beautiful scarf with oranges (satsuma?) printed on it. I do receive book packages every now and then but the scarf was very unexpected. He’s always so kind to me! When I visited Japan in 2010, I met up with Satoshi and he had prepared notes and a hand drawn(!) map as a gift to introduce me to Tokyo. He also took me to visit some very interesting and off the beaten track places (the man has great taste in cool shops and galleries). Tokyo has an amazingly large dedicated children’s bookstore that from memory is about three floors. It’s where I bought the Japanese translation of my favourite Satoshi Kitamura picture book, When Sheep Cannot Sleep. It’s probably the most charming, yet subtle counting book you’ll ever come across. I was terrified he’d try to pay for it so I returned to the bookstore the following day to get it.

Satoshi also lent me a travel smart card for traversing the various Tokyo train lines. It helped so much and meant I never had to worry if I had the right kind of ticket for a particular train company. If you ever go to Tokyo, you MUST get one. It’s similar to an Oyster card that you’d get in London or Octopus card in HK etc etc.

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Finally, check out the cute card. It’s a fox that’s strolling with a letter in his hand; a house and garden landscape in the background. He really likes to make his own cards and notes. I don’t think I’ve ever received a card from Satoshi that didn’t either have a watercolour, pen illustration or cut out detail. So this really ticks all the boxes with thoughtfulness, a handmade quality and surprise extra gift. What more could I really want?

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I’m a very lucky girl and 2012 feels like it’s going to be a life changing year in every way.

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