7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #752: Featuring James Yang

h1 July 18th, 2021 by jules


James Yang’s A Boy Named Isamu: A Story of Isamu Noguchi (Viking, June 2021) is an imagined story about a day in the life of Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi. The young Isamu spends his day exploring the world around him — and with a sense of astonishment.

“If you are a boy named Isamu …” the book opens (bringing to my mind the exquisite The Iridescence of Birds, written by Patricia MachLanlan and illustrated by Hadley Hooper). Young Isamu is at the market with his mother. It’s loud and crowded, so he wanders off to a “quiet space that feels more like you.” As you can see, the text is presented in an inviting and immediate second-person voice, putting readers into the shoes of the young boy.

Isamu keeps walking and eventually stops to explore what he sees, marveling over textures, colors, etc. Almost trance-like, he ends up in the forest and wonders about the leaves and grass — but especially the stones (as pictured below). At the beach, the “ocean greest you with its quiet rumble. You feel like the only person in the world. If you are Isamu, you find a secret place so you can look at the ocean and see the shapes of things.” Here, Yang pictures the boy sitting on the kind of stone sculpture the adult Noguchi was known for creating. When his mother finds him, he thinks about how he was “alone but not lonely” all day: “The forest and beach were like friends giving you a gift.” Ah, lovely.

It’s a book that not only serves as an introduction to Noguchi and his work — there is a short closing note about the artist — but that also truly sees quieter, more introspective children. As Yang writes in the backmatter note, “[Noguchi] was interested in the essence of nature and that influenced his artwork” and Noguchi believed “a child’s way of experiencing the world was an important part of being an artist.” This imagined day in his childhood elegantly captures both things.

Here are some spreads so that the art and words can do the talking. …


“If you are a boy named Isamu …”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“Children are playing loudly. You keep walking. When it is quiet, you wonder …
What kind of wood is this? How does fruit get its color?
Why does cloth feel soft? Who made the path with stone?”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“If you are Isamu, stones are the most special of all. Time has carved each stone to be different. How can they be so heavy? Would they float if they had no weight?”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“If you are Isamu, you wish every day could be this big.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


A BOY NAMED ISAMU: A STORY OF ISAMU NOGUCHI. Copyright © 2021 by James Yang. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

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.

Keeping it very short this week, as my family and I are getting away on the day I normally type this up. Looking forward to a tiny trip.

Also, it was not Tennessee’s best week, but I’m grateful that Dr. Michelle Fiscus is speaking up.

And it was so sad to hear about the loss of illustrator Floyd Cooper as well as picture book scholar Barbara Bader, but I’m so grateful for their incredible work over many years.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

6 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #752: Featuring James Yang”

  1. Sometimes you need a quiet book. I love the art and the nature.
    Jules, I hope you had a wonderful trip.
    My kicks:
    1. Time with oldest grand.
    2. Time on the deck.
    3. Time to write.
    4. Time to create.
    5. Time to nap.
    6. Time to connect with other writers.
    7. Time to take in a baseball game. (Portland Pickles)
    have a good week.

  2. Hello Imps! Hello to James and Isamu and the marketplace and all the wonders around us.

    Jules: Have a fun trip!

    Jone: Sounds like lots and lots of good times.

    My kicks:
    1) Completed
    2) Done
    3) Sharing
    4) Caring
    5) Truth
    6) TV
    7) Vision

  3. This is such a great way to explore the childhood of an artist, as well as encourage kids to take time and space to really wonder about the world around them. The questions come in the quiet times.

    Jules – hope you and the family have a great trip!!

    Jone – what a week full of time well spent!

    Little Willow – especially love the kicks for completed and done. Caring and sharing are wonderful kicks.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Cool breezes.
    2) Summer cocktails.
    3) Outdoor catchups with friends.
    4) Bike rides through the neighborhood.
    5) Hitting the tennis ball against a backboard. (Practice!)
    6) This newspaper article about problems with Oregon’s state agency that funds public defense (I was quoted, as were a number of colleagues) https://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/2021/07/as-state-public-defense-office-emerges-from-nearly-4-million-deficit-attorneys-raise-other-concerns-about-mismanagement.html
    7) Conversations that will hopefully lead to change.
    7.5) Car rides for puppacinos with Daisy.

    Have a great week Imps!

  4. Jone, what a good week with family and friends and writing.

    LW: Those kicks read like a lovely mantra.

    Rachel: Thanks for the link! What a good week you had too. Hugs to Daisy.

    Have a good week, you all!

  5. I can’t read that article, because I don’t subscribe. Wah.

  6. Little Willow: caring and vision are important.
    Rachel, I wish I could read the article as well. Curious about summer cocktails.

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.