Books by Amiko Hirao

WRITE TO ME by Cynthia Grady
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 9, 2018

"A touching tribute to a woman who deserves recognition, but it's one that should be complemented by other works. (Picture book. 6-9)"
Against the grim backdrop of the Japanese-American internment camps, white librarian Clara Breed's compassion offered children a ray of hope and a comforting connection to the normal lives they sorely missed. Read full book review >
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME by Jack Norworth
MUSIC AND THE ARTS
Released: April 1, 2011

The song may have been written by a man who had never been to a game, and it was first sung on the vaudeville circuit of early-20th-century America, but it has long since taken its place as the venerable and beloved anthem of baseball. Of course, modern fans do not include the original verse when they sing the refrain during the seventh-inning stretch. The fact that the lyrics are about a young woman's deep love of the game would greatly surprise them. Katie Casey "saw all the games, knew all the players by their first names." The song has been illustrated often, in myriad styles and techniques. Hirao creates a cast of enthusiastic animals to populate the teams and spectators at Sluggers Stadium. While the fans, including Katie the cat, are of mostly domesticated varieties, the players are alligators, giraffes, elephants, hippos and other wildlife. It's a visual tour de force, with double-page spreads of large, action-packed, brilliantly colored scenes in startlingly off-center perspective. A Carly Simon CD accompanies the book, and youngsters will have a wonderful time reading and singing along. In a charming note, Simon provides some surprising information about her connection to both the song and Jackie Robinson. Joyous fun for all. (illustrator's note) (Picture book. 2 & up)Read full book review >
JUST WHAT MAMA NEEDS by Sharlee Glenn
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2008

On Monday, Abby dresses as a pirate—just the ticket, says Mama, to help swab the kitchen floor. On Tuesday, she's a detective, perfect for pulling missing socks and underwear from the wash. Cast as floppy eared pooches in Hirao's cheery collage-and-paint scenes, Abby and her ever-inventive Mama go through an entire week of familiar domestic tasks together. Then on Sunday Abby stumps her parent by dressing in a favorite shirt: " ‘Are you an artist?' ‘No,' said Abby. ‘A drummer?' ‘No,' said Abby. ‘A zookeeper? A yodeler?' " No, she finally declares, " ‘Today I am . . . ME!' " Mama responds with a hug and her own declaration that an "Abby" is what she needs most of all. As cozy as it can get without falling into gooey sentimentality, this playful colloquy probably won't change anyone's attitude about doing chores, but it may make them seem a little less onerous. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
TULIP AT THE BAT by J. Patrick Lewis
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2007

The New York Pets square off against the Boston Beasts, with the usual result, in this very distant cousin to "Casey at the Bat." It's the bottom of the ninth, two outs, Boston up by one—but with Pets pitcher Armand Armand Octopus hugging second and corpulent outfielder Amanda Elephant really holding down first, up to the plate comes Tulip Hippo, with her "double stubble chins" and a pink tutu "held together by a dozen safety pins." Unlike Casey, though, Tulip drills the pitch—so hard that it sinks into the ground in front of the plate, giving all three runners time to lumber home. As the line breaks in the last verse don't come on the rhyming words, and Lewis has Tulip bunting while in the picture she's swinging away, this strikes out on editorial attention to detail. However, Tulip, who is last seen waving triumphantly with her teammates through a blizzard of ticker tape, makes a fetching hero, and the outsized "WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS" message at the end will be music to the ears of New York fans everywhere. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
ALL ABOARD! by Mary Lyn Ray
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2002

This fluid locomotive voyage starts rolling even before the title page with a "Choong. Choong. Choong. Choong," as readers follow the journey of Mr. Barnes, a large purple-suited rabbit, and his travel mate—a young girl. Ray (Red Rubber Boot Day, 2000, etc.) calmly alternates between characters' actions and striking descriptions: "A city slides by, strung with lights in the night, like a tug of dreams on a river." The language is rhythmic and rich with auditory treats, but sets a leisurely pace that could lose a young reader's attention. Fortunately, the art is captivating; oversized pages are filled with striking scenes of countryside and urban landscapes, interesting perspectives, and clever details enough to require repeated explorations. Characters (who are all animals other than the girl) and objects in fuzzy pastels are collaged together within the train cars, creating a cozy potpourri that hits a safe note for inexperienced solo travelers. They'll watch passengers read, snooze, snack, or just look out the window. It's the perfect depiction of train travel: everyone "has somewhere to go" and yet is luxuriously suspended in time. The ending, though the reader gets a glimpse of a stuffed rabbit in the little girl's backpack at the beginning of the story, comes as a delightful surprise that provides a nice punctuation to an otherwise uneventful ride. Mr. Barnes isn't a tall, dapper fellow after all, but only a stuffed animal. When the girl departs the train and is greeted lovingly by her grandparents, Mr. Barnes again pokes out of her backpack, reminding readers both young and old that a train can take you anywhere your imagination is willing to go. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 1, 2002

A twist on the traditional folkloric motif goes on too long and loses its way and its audience. The rather violent tale set on the Arabian Sea begins with an unnamed fisherman pulling a genie's bottle from the water. Instead of granting him three wishes, the genie, enraged by his long wait, announces that he will kill the man instead. The fisherman replies that repaying kindness with evil will bring down the punishments of Heaven and Fate, and launches into a story to explain. That story, of a healer who cures a king but makes him look foolish in the process, is set off from the first by a different text font, but not by any variance in illustration. The vibrant pastels, while interesting in their own right, consistently fail to capture the characters, who all look the same except for the purple genie. When the king threatens to kill the healer, the healer launches into his own story, of a prince who kills his faithful hunting dog when he feels that the dog has spoiled his sport. The king, however, does not listen to the healer, but kills him, too (dying by poison in the process), which brings us back to the original fisherman and the genie. "That," says the fisherman, "is the story of how evil follows evil." Unfortunately, none of the depressing stories has anything to do with the genie, who bellows in ALL CAPS some fairly standard threats until the fisherman tricks him into returning to his bottle. Better trickster stories and better genie stories abound. Text-heavy and without magic, this one can be passed by. (Picture book. 5-9)Read full book review >