Picture Book Review: Satoru Onishi’s Who’s Hiding?

h1 March 7th, 2007 by jules

Satoru Onishi’s Who’s Hiding? (2007) has been reviewed heavily ’round the kidlitosphere, I’ve noticed. I was holding off on telling you about it for that reason, but . . . well, it’s so good that it’d be a small crime to not give it an enthusiastic shout-out here at 7-Imp.

This is another slammin’ Japanese import from the folks at Kane/Miller (who are having a wonderful year thus far, are they not? They’ve been churning out the loveliest books). Onishi’s bio at their site states that “Satoru Onishi was hiding when we asked for author information.” Heh. Good one. But I wish we knew more about Onishi, ’cause this book will draw preschoolers to it in the same way that preschoolers are drawn to Goldfish crackers, screaming at the top of their lungs if you break the slightest little element in their routine, and playing in their underwear. Can you tell I’ve spent the day with one of these creatures? Where was I? Yes, it’s a preschool magnet, and I’d like to see more of what Onishi has done/will do.

Look at the cover. It’s deceptive, I tell ya, in that it looks like a really simple book. And on the surface it is, what with its uncluttered art work and repetition — those rounded, brightly-colored animals you see there are repeated in that order on each and every spread. But as you progress through the book, the question atop each page changes: First, mind you, we just meet the animals. Next, we are asked, “Who’s hiding?” Our reindeer, top right, is hiding, you see, because he’s bright yellow, and Onishi has endowed this entire double page spread with the background color of bright yellow. This repeats on every other spread — with the colors changing, of course, and sometimes more than one creature is hiding. In between the spreads with the repeated refrain of “who’s hiding?”, we’re asked, “who’s crying?”, “who’s angry?” (though I argue that, amusingly enough, Zebra looks moderately pissed off throughout the entire book), “who has horns?”, “who’s backwards?”, and “who’s sleeping?” On those pages, subtle changes are made to the illustrations so that your wee preschooler or class of wee preschooler children can put their observation and I-spy skills to work — while having fun. While having fun, I tell you. I mean, I’ll be 35 years old in no time, and I think I squealed when I finally first spotted the crying bunny.

In the end, the light is turned out, so to speak, on all the animals, and your memory is put to work as you are asked “who’s who?” D’oh! I exclaimed when I first was reading it with children in lap. I’ve forgotten where each animal was! I felt like I was in first grade, playing one of those memory card games again. But this was much more fun, as I had to flip ahead to the final spread (in which we are once again shown the animals as they first appear in the book) and take another look. And then we started all over again. It’s addictive, I say.

This is a clever concept book that is screaming to be paired with the postmodern funkiness of Invisible by Katja Kamm (if you’re wondering why, see my review here from last year) for your preschool classroom or library. But just make sure you experience Who’s Hiding no matter what, and good luck finding that crying bunny.

{my source: review copy}

2 comments to “Picture Book Review: Satoru Onishi’s Who’s Hiding?

  1. that sounds so cool, j. i’ve missed the blog-buzz on this one, so thanks for pointing it out!

  2. E, here are just a few that I remember seeing:

    * Mindy’s review at ProperNoun.net

    * Kelly’s review at Big A, little a

    * review at Kids Lit

    Okay, hmmm . . . I thought there were a lot more, but I guess those were the ones I saw.

    The latter review states: “This is a lap book to share with any preschooler. It will not project well to a group of children.” I should have perhaps made that more clear in my review. It’s perfection for a class or library of preschoolers or even a bit older (or younger, for that matter), but it’s too small for a group story-time.

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