7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #439: Featuring Akiko Miyakoshi

h1 July 5th, 2015 by jules

It just so happens that my very favorite medium in picture book illustration is charcoal. I get all googly-eyed when I see it done well. But that’s not the only reason I love this book from author-illustrator Akiko Miyakoshi, The Tea Party in the Woods, coming in August from Kids Can Press and originally published in Japan back in 2010. The visuals here are pure magic and filled with intriguing details, and the story is one of mystery and friendship.

A young girl, named Kikko, awakes to a “winter wonderland.” She heads out to deliver a pie to her Grandma, the one that her father, who has already set out for Grandma’s house, left behind. This is all slightly reminiscent of the classic tale “Little Red Riding Hood” in that the girl’s destination involves her grandmother, and her skirt and winter hat are bright reds (much like Red’s cape) in a sea of white snow and dark charcoals. But that’s where the similarities end: There’s no menacing wolf here.

Instead, she is fairly sure after heading out that she spots her father ahead, and in an effort to catch up to him, she falls in snow drifts and the pie box is crushed. She follows her father anyway to “a strange house. Has it always been here? Kikko wondered.”


“Kikko followed her father all the way to a strange house. Has it always been here? Kikko wondered. She couldn’t remember having seen it before.
She watched as her father went inside.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


Her father enters the house, and when she peeks in the window, she is surprised to see, not her father, but a great big bear. A kind lamb asks Kikko, still outside, if she is there for the tea party. She goes inside with the lamb, and here is where the magic and mystery amp up. There is a fabulous spread where all the creatures at this party—forest creatures of every stripe—turn to stare at her. But Miyakoshi places readers right with Kikko, so it’s the reader who gets a stare-down too. It’s a wonderful, rather spine-tingling moment.


“‘Are you here for the tea party?’ asked a kind voice. Kikko turned to see a little lamb standing nearby. ‘This way,’ said the lamb,
gently taking Kikko’s hand and leading her inside.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


Despite their stares, they welcome her. And the feasting begins, Kikko’s yellow hair the only spot of color in this sea of charcoals. (Later, we see a bit more color when we pan out to see the group as a whole.) I love to see happy feasts in picture books, one reason I’m a John Burningham fan. The book closes with a lovely surprise from the tea party members, one that benefits both Kikko and her grandmother. (It’s hinted at in the illustration opening this post.)

Was it all a dream or did she really feast with forest creatures? It doesn’t really matter. The adventure was worth it, either way.


“The woods were filled with joyful sounds as everyone paraded to Grandma’s house, singing and laughing and playing music as they went. ‘This way!’ the animals called. Kikko held the pie box tightly and walked on.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


Here’s the splendid cover one more time, a little bit bigger:



THE TEA PARTY IN THE WOODS. Copyright © 2010 by Akiko Miyakoshi. English translation © 2015 by Kids Can Press. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Kids Can Press, Toronto.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Did I mention I love to see charcoal illustrations like this?

2) Being thanked by name by Dan Santat in his Caldecott acceptance speech last weekend. It was tremendously thoughtful of him to thank bloggers.

3) Lots of great new music to explore.

4) Alabama Shakes’ new CD really is extraordinary.

5) Brian Selznick’s drawings.

6) Sparklers.

7) Pie.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

14 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #439: Featuring Akiko Miyakoshi”

  1. Ooh, ooh, ooh, what fabulous illustrations. I love the spot of color in the sea of gray. Thanks for sharing your work, Akiko.
    Jules, I love Alabama Shakes. How cool that you were mentioned by Dan Santat.
    Well, Imps, this is not a kick but I want to let you know the our Sophie moved onto the big doghouse in the sky this week. We were so fortunate to have her an extra month.
    Our other dog, Buster, has stepped up in giving us a lot of love since Tuesday. We moved out of our house, are waiting to close on our other, and are with our dear friends in Idaho.
    Hope everyone had a fabulous Fourth of July.

  2. I saw that on Facebook, Jone, and my heart goes out to you, as well as my arms for a giant hug I wish I could give in person.

    Best of luck with moving.

  3. Hello Kickers —

    Oh, charcoal art… I don’t know how to make that heart-symbol thingum appear, but if I could I’d do it three or four times in a row. Beautiful work, and as Jone said, those little touches of color just sing.

    (I can never figure out how they do it without SMUDGING, though. (A problem especially from the perspective of a left-hander.))

    How great was that of Dan Santat? (Which sounds like a line from Dr. Seuss.) You must’ve just about fallen over, Jules!

    Jone: omg, so so sorry to hear about your Sophie. But glad she had an infinite doghouse to move into, and glad Buster has taken up some slack. (Our own getting-up-in-age Yorkie is named Sophie.)

    Some brief kicks here:

    1. Skyping with distant family.
    2. Crazy dreams. (Not literally crazy, I think, but literally dreams. 🙂 )
    3. The Pooch’s slooooow ascent up the ramp to something like full functioning. (Broken pelvis, 5-6 weeks ago.)
    4. Finally (what’s it been, like years???) started watching HBO’s ‘John Adams’ mini-series. (Yes, for July 4th.) Awfully damned good.
    5. Pratchett’s Discworld. Still.
    6. The promise of the horizon, in all directions.
    7. A world in which caterpillars turn into butterflies which then disappear — more or less literally — into thin air, well, that’s not a bad world, is it?

    Have a great week, everyone!

  4. Good morning, Imps! Happy July!

    Akiko: Really cool illustrations. Best of luck!

    Jules: What a lovely acknowledgment.

    Jone: Thinking of you and your family.

    JES: Healing thoughts to your dog.

    Kicks for the past week:
    1) Visits
    2) Confirmations
    3) Articles
    4) Breeze
    5) Calm
    6) Water
    7) Known

  5. Such beautiful illustrations! And the snow is so nice to look at while we’re in a stretch of extreme (for us) hot weather here in the PNW.

    Jules – So awesome you were thanked in Dan Santat’s acceptance speech! New music, sparklers and pie sound like a great weekend.

    Jone – so sorry you had to say goodbye to Sophie, she was clearly a wonderful and well-loved pup. Glad Buster is stepping up the love to help everyone with the loss. Daisy and I send love and hugs too. Hope the transition to closing and moving to the new house goes smoothly.

    JES – healing thoughts and hugs to your Sophie. And your kick #7 – LOVE.

    LW – Kicks 4,5, & 6 sound lovely.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Sunshine, and lots of it!
    2) Meeting 2 girlfriends after work for driving range practice and drinks.
    3) Getting flowers for no reason.
    4) Adding cucumber and squash to the garden, and my tomatoes are almost ripe.
    5) White wine spritzers to beat the heat.
    6) Big DIY project done – I added a front step to my landing. Dug the trench, built the mold, mixed and poured the concrete = front step down instead of just the side step. Now I need to get motivated to add the walkway.
    7) Women’s World Cup Final Match today! Go USA!

    Have a wonderful week everyone!

  6. That cover illustration is full of suggestions and takes you right into the story Akiko; enchanting and a little bit haunting. Thank you for sharing.

    Jules: I can’t wait to see Brian Selznick’s new title. His other two are glorious. We purchased multiple copies of Wonderstruck and read it in segments with our entire third grade. They were mesmerized.

    Jone: Oh I am so sorry Jone. My heart goes out to you. A friend was telling me about a book she read where a dog keeps coming back as another dog to take care of his people. I like that idea.

    JES: Isn’t Skype the best? I love how we can be connected, see each other and chat in real time.

    Little Willow: The breezes have been wonderful on these warmer days.

    Rachel: Getting flowers for no reason is one of the nicest surprises.

    My kicks:
    1. Spending as much time as possible outside with Xena. She loves resting in the yard and watching the world go by.
    2. Blooming perennials
    3. Full moon
    4. New Skinny Cow Ice Cream bar
    5. Iced glasses
    6. Rereading favorite books
    7. Loon calls from the lake

    Have a fantastic week everyone.

  7. Thanks for all the kind words.
    Jes, healing wishes for your dog. I love crazy dreams.
    LW, breeze and calm, great kicks.
    Rachel, we’re watching the World Cup.
    Margie, so glad that you have time with Xena.

  8. John: I’m sorry, but I just can’t get over kick #6 and how great it is. Your other kicks are lovely, but yes … that.

    LW: Water. Always water. It’s what relaxes me.

    I’m impressed by your sixth kick too, Rachel. And yes, I figured the snow is refreshing to see as we kick off July. And OH WOW, I just realized it’s the first Sunday of the month, and I forgot to feature a student illustrator. Oh well, I guess I got really excited about this book.

    Margie, we are reading a galley of Selznick’s new one, and those opening drawings … YOWSERS. Hugs to Xena, and your kicks as a whole are filled with such sensory delights!

  9. And my best wishes for your pooch, too, John.

  10. Hi Jules –

    I just wanted to mention that I am so happy this book is coming out in the U.S.! I saw this book a bit ago in a Korean blog and was really hoping to get a hand on this book. Now I can, in August! So excited! Thank you for introducing. I hope more of Akiko’s books would be published here. They are so beautiful!

  11. I saw one of the illustrations for this book yesterday in a Facebook post, loved it so much, I got on Amazon to purchase the book. It will be available on August 1st. I can’t wait to settle into a comfy chair to enjoy this book when it arrives.

  12. Hi, Aram and Leslie. Yes, it’s coming out in August. Hope you enjoy it. So beautiful. I’m grateful to have an early copy.

  13. Beautiful illustrations! Charcoal seems like an underutilized medium. Or maybe I just don’t see as much of it as I would like!

  14. […] Julie Davidson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at her acclaimed blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books. The above blog was posted at 7-Imp on July 5, 2015 […]

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