Sanae Ishida‘s watercolors are enchanting—sweet, colorful, and full of humor and whimsy. In the first book, Little Kunoichi meets Chibi Samurai while they’re both in training at ninja school and samurai school respectively. In the end, they wow the crowd at The Island Festival because they practice—not to be perfect but to have fun.
In Chibi Samurai wants a Pet, Kunoichi’s best friend Chibi Samurai indeed wants a pet, one as sweet and super-duper as Kunoichi’s pet ninja bunny. So he sets off on a quest around the island to find a companion, encountering creatures both real and mythical. He meets a giant salamander, serow, cloth-weaving crane, magical tanuki, and mythical Kappa—but none is quite right! Until he realizes his perfect pet has been close at hand the whole time, just like other things we might seek that have—sometimes—been there all along.
The ending is absolutely charming, but I won’t spoil it!
This book delights with creativity and surprise. Plus, there’s a visual glossary at the back with all the elements of Japanese culture and folklore the story mentions.
Here’s the cover!!
Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet will be out August 8, 2017!
Here’s what Sanae Ishida says about the process of creating the cover:
For the cover, I wanted to show Chibi (as I affectionately call him in my mind, a slang word for “little” or “short” in Japanese) in search mode. I presented several cover ideas, but this swamp version was my favorite because the greenery felt mysterious and dramatic and allowed me to partially hide Little Kunoichi and her pet bunny in there. The swamp is also one of the areas that Chibi actually searches in the book, so I loved the tie-in with the story too. I’m so glad that the publisher liked this version!
My general illustration process starts by painting every element by hand with watercolor and gouache paint. I don’t do a whole lot of sketching or pencil renderings and just dive in with paint. For example, I painted the helmet, the armor, body, outfit, hair, face, and expression of Chibi all separately. I then scan everything in and assemble the elements collage-style with Photoshop. Sometimes I’ll modify the colors in Photoshop or amp up the saturation or add transparency. I often have to clean up smudges and mistakes or alter the scale of different elements. Working this way has been great for me because it makes incorporating changes when I get feedback from the editors and art department so much easier.
Everything about the first Little Kunoichi book was magical for me and I will love it to pieces forever, but this time around Chibi has stolen my heart and this story resonates with me on a whole different level. I hope kids (and adults reading it to them) enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it!
And a couple of sneak peeks inside the book:
(click image(s) to enlarge)
Big thanks to Sasquatch Books for images!
Sanae Ishida grew up drawing princesses, reading Japanese comic books, and writing stories she never shared with anyone. She enjoyed stints in wide-ranging fields including illustration, education, technology, retail, and theater arts. When not creating on the page, she sews, frequents coffee shops, and overly shares stories on SanaeIshida.com. She lives in Seattle with her wonderful husband and fabulous daughter—inspiration for Little Kunoichi.
You can check out my feature of Kunoichi, The Ninja Girl, the first in the series as well!