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Japanese Authors of Children's Literature: A Special-Feature Section of Outstanding Authors

Writers and Illustrators

Portrait of Momoko Ishii

Momoko Ishii

1907-2008 List of books

Momoko Ishii was a children’s literature scholar who, through her wide range of activities as an editor, translator and writer, unearthed the possibilities of children’s literature.

She was born in the Urawa Town (present Saitama City), in Saitama Prefecture. After graduating from Japan Women’s University, she became an editor, assisting Yuzo Yamamoto with the editing of Nihon shokokumin bunko [Series for Japanese young nationals], published by Shinchosha between 1934 and 1936, and editing and publishing the Japanese version of Hugh Lofting’s Doritoru sensei afurika yuki [The story of Doctor Dolittle] (translated by Masuji Ibuse, published by Hakurin Shonenkan in 1941). She was also the translator for the Japanese version of Kuma no Pusan [Winnie-the-Pooh], published by Iwanami Shoten in 1940, which was her first work in translation. She translated and introduced many works of children’s literature picture books throughout her career.

During World War II, she began writing Nonchan kumo ni noru [Non-chan rides the clouds], eventually publishing it in 1947 from Daichi Shobo. This fanciful, full-length story was popular with the public and was even made into a film.

After the war, she planned and edited Iwanami shonen bunko [Iwanami children's library] and Iwanami no kodomono hon [Iwanami children's books]. After leaving Iwanami Shoten in 1954, she was awarded a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. By using this grant, she went to the United States to study the state of children’s books and to learn about children’s libraries. After returning back to Japan, she opened a home library named ‘Katsura bunko for children’. The practices she carried out at the bunko are collected in the book Kodomo no toshokan [Children’s library], published by Iwanami Shoten in 1965.

Based on the debates of a research group that undertook a critical investigation of Japanese modern children’s literature, Ishii coauthored Kodomo to bungaku [Children and literature](Chuokoron-sha, 1960) with Tomoko Inui, Shinichi Suzuki, Teiji Seta, Tadashi Matsui and Shigeo Watanabe. This publication sets out standards that “literature for children should be entertaining, clear and easy to understand,” and it had a major effect on children’s literature and children’s publishing in Japan.

In her later years, Ishii published Maboroshi no akai mi [Phantasmal red fruit] (Iwanami Shoten, 1994), an autobiographical full-length novel and the seven-volume Ishii Momoko shu [The Momoki Ishii collection] (Iwanami Shoten, 1998–1999). In 1997, she also became a member of the Japan Art Academy.

She dedicated her life to providing rich literature to children and to continue thinking how it could be best done.

C-1-1Umi no obake Ori [Oley, the sea monster]
Written and illustrated by Marie Hall Ets/Translated by Momoko Ishii
Iwanami Shoten 1974
(Ogata ehon [Big book] 17)
Call No. Y17-4252 (First ed. 児933-cE85u)
The first edition was published in the series Iwanami no kodomo no hon, san-, yo-nen muke [Iwanami children's books for third and fourth grade] vol. 5 (1954). Momoko Ishii and Natsuya Mitsuyoshi were instrumental in the launch of the Iwanami no kodomo no hon [Iwanami children's books] series, which began in 1953.

C-1-2Seimei no rekishi [Life story]
Written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton/Translated by Momoko Ishii
Iwanami Shoten 1964
Call No. Y11-94
Iwanami no ogata ehon [Iwanami's big picture book] vol. 1. Virginia Lee Burton was a leading author of children's books in the United States. This book presents an easy-to-understand history of life on Earth, from the time the Earth was formed to the present.

C-1-3Chiisai ouchi [The little house]
Written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton/Translated and edited by Iwanami Shoten
Iwanami Shoten 1954
(Iwanami no kodomono hon, yo, ichi, ninen muke [Iwanami children's books for Kindergarten, first and second grade students] 6)
Call No. 児933-cB974tI
The original book won the 1943 Randolph Caldecott Medal. The book’s layout was reversed and the Japanese text rearranged into a ‘top-to-bottom, right to left format’ for publication as part of the Iwanami no kodomo no hon [Iwanami children's books] series to ensure that it would be easy to read for Japanese children.

Thumbnail of Chiisana Usakochan [Miffy]

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C-1-4Chiisana Usakochan [Miffy]
Written and illustrated by Dick Bruna/Translated by Momoko Ishii
Fukuinkan Shoten 1992
(Kodomo ga hajimete deau ehon [First book for children] 1 )
Call No. Y18-7090
The original series was written in Dutch. Eight volumes from the series were translated into Japanese in 1964. A further eight volumes were subsequently translated, as well.

C-1-5Kuma no Pusan, Pu yokocho ni tatta ie [Winnie-the-Pooh and The house at Pooh corner]
Written by Alan Alexander Milne/Translated by Momoko Ishii
Iwanami Shoten 1993
Call No. Y9-800 (First ed. 児933-cM65k)
Included in this book are Kuma no Pusan [Winnie-the-Pooh] (1940), which is the first book that Momoko Ishii translated, and its sequel Pu yokocho ni tatta ie [The House at Pooh Corner] (1942). The first edition was published in 1962.

C-1-6Tanoshii kawabe: Hikigaeru no boken [The wind in the willows: The adventures of Mr.Toad]
Written by Kenneth Grahame/Translated by Momoko Ishii/Illustrated by Ernest Howard Shepard
Iwanami Shoten 1963
Call No. 児933-cG74tI (First ed. Hikigaeru no boken 児933-cG74hI)
This edition is the retranslated version of the Hikigaeru no boken [The wind in the willows] published under this new title by Eihosha in 1950. The first translation by Yoshio Nakano was published by Hakurin Shonenkan in 1940 under the title Tanoshii kawabe.

Thumbnail of Chiisai ushioi [The small cattle drover]

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C-1-7Chiisai ushioi [The small cattle driver]
Written by Marie Hamsun/Translated by Momoko Ishii
Iwanami Shoten 1950
(Iwanami shonen bunko [Iwanami children's library] 4)
Call No. 児949.6-cH23tI
This work is one of the first five books published as the Iwanami shonen bunko [Iwanami children’s library]. The story takes place on a farm in Norway. This is a retranslation of the English version of the first of two volumes, entitled A Norwegian Farm. The second volume is Ushioi no fuyu [The cattle drover’s winter] (児 949.6-cH23tI).

Thumbnail of Tobu fune [The ship that flew]

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C-1-8Tobu fune [The ship that flew]
Written by Hilda Winifred Lewis/Translated by Momoko Ishii
Iwanami Shoten 1987
Call No. Y8-4502 (First ed. 児933-cL674tI)
The first edition appeared in 1953 as Iwanami shonen bunko [Iwanami children’s library] vol. 70. The book is a fantasy novel of the journey of four siblings in a magic ship, traveling across time and place. Written by an English novelist.

Thumbnail of Mugi to osama[The little bookroom]

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C-1-9Mugi to osama [The little bookroom]
Written by Eleanor Farjeon/Translated by Momoko Ishii/Illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
Iwanami Shoten 1971
(Fajon sakuhinshu [The collected works of Farjeon] 3)
Call No. Y7-2195-[3] (First ed. 児933-cF22m)
The first edition of this work appeared in 1959 as Iwanami shonen bunko [Iwanami children’s library] vol. 183. The original book was awarded the Carnegie Medal in 1955, and comprises twenty-seven short stories selected by the author, including the title story, that were written as a poetic fantasy in the tradition of fairy-tales.

Thumbnail of Mahotsukai no chokoreto keki: Magaretto Mahi ohanashishu [The good wizard of the forest and other stories: Margaret Mahy story book]

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C-1-10Mahotsukai no chokoreto keki: Magaretto Mahi ohanashishu [The good wizard of the forest and other stories: Margaret Mahy story book]
Written by Margaret Mahy/Illustrated by Shirley Hughes/Translated by Momoko Ishii
Fukuinkan Shoten 1984
Call No. Y8-1779
Margaret Mahy is a New Zealand author, who received the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing in 2006. This book contains eight children's stories and two poems, including the title story.

Thumbnail of Nonchan kumo ni noru [Non-chan rides the clouds]

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C-1-11Nonchan kumo ni noru [Non-chan rides the clouds]
Written by Momoko Ishii/Illustrated by Soya Nakagawa
Fukuinkan Shoten 1967
Call No. Y8-N01-358
First published by Daichi Shobo in 1947, this book became a best seller after being republished by Kobunsha in 1951.

Thumbnail of Fukurokoji ichibanchi [The family from one end street]

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C-1-12Fukurokoji ichibanchi [The family from one end street]
Written and illustrated by Eve Garnett/Translated by Momoko Ishii
Iwanami Shoten 1957
(Iwanami shonen bunko [Iwanami children's library] 136)
Call No. 児933-cG23h
The original was awarded the Carnegie Medal in 1937. Set in England, it is an enjoyable depiction of a large family living in a traditional working-class neighborhood.

Thumbnail of Sangatsu hina no tsuki [The dolls’ day for Yoshiko]

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C-1-13Sangatsu hina no tsuki [The dolls’ day for Yoshiko]
Written by Momoko Ishii/Illustrated by Setsu Asakura
Fukuinkan Shoten 1963
Call No. 児913.8-I583s
This children's story about a mother and child preparing for Hinamatsuri (Doll's festival) was translated into English and published as “The Dolls’ Day for Yoshiko.” The title page is shown in the image.

Thumbnail of Osoba no kuki wa naze akai: Nihon	mukashibanashi[Why are stems of soba red?: Folktales from Japan]

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C-1-14Osoba no kuki wa naze akai: Nihon mukashibanashi [Why are stems of soba red?: Folktales from Japan]
Written by Momoko Ishii/Illustrated by Shigeru Hatsuyama
Iwanami Shoten 1954
(Iwanami no kodomono hon [Iwanami children's books])
Call No. Y17-N05-H49 (First ed. 児913.8-I922o)
This book was first published in 1954 as Iwanami no kodomo no hon yo, ichi, ninen muke [Iwanami children's books for kindergarten, first and second grade] vol. 8. It contains Oshishi no kubi wa naze akai [Why is the neck of the lion dancer red?] and Umi no mizu ha naze karai [Why is seawater salty?].

Thumbnail of Osana monogatari[A childhood story]

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C-1-15Osana monogatari [A childhood story]
Written by Momoko Ishii/Illustrated by Akiko Yoshii
Fukuinkan Shoten 1981
(Fukuinkan nichiyobi bunko [Fukuinkan Sunday library])
Call No. Y7-8644
This book is a memoir of the author’s early childhood and was serialized in 1977 for roughly one year in the monthly magazine Kodomo no yakata [House of children], published by Fukuinkan Shoten.

Thumbnail of Maigo no tenshi[The lost angel]

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C-1-16Maigo no tenshi [The lost angel]
Written by Momoko Ishii/Illustrated by Kazu Wakita
Fukuinkan Shoten 1986
(Fukuinkan sosaku dowa series [Fukuinkan original children's story series])
Call No. Y8-3507 (First ed. 913.6-I583m)
This is a humorous novel about the affairs of an ordinary family, serialized in the Asahi Shimbun [Asahi Newspaper] in 1958.

Thumbnail of Maboroshi no akai	mi [Phantasmal red fruit] two volumes

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C-1-17Maboroshi no akai mi [Phantasmal red fruit] two volumes
Written by Momoko Ishii
Iwanami Shoten 1994
Call No. KH196-E229
The two volumes were written over the course of eight years, and the characters were based on the author’s acquaintances. The story was written for adults, which depicts the friendship between two women, their youthful experiences, and the complicated relationships in the literary circles of the day.

Thumbnail of Kodomo to bungaku [Children and literature]

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C-1-18Kodomo to bungaku [Children and literature]
Written by Momoko Ishii and others
Fukuinkan Shoten 1967
Call No. 909-I583k-h (First ed. 909-I583k)
This book was co-authored by Teiji Seta, Tadashi Matsui, Tomiko Inui and Shinichi Suzuki. The first edition was published by Chuokoron-Sha in 1960 and summarizes five years of the activities of the Children and Literature Research Group.

Thumbnail of Jido bungakuron[The unreluctant years: A critical approach to children’s literature]

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C-1-19Jido bungakuron [The unreluctant years: A critical approach to children’s literature]
Written by Lillian Helena Smith/Translated by Momoko Ishii, Teiji Seta and Shigeo Watanabe
Iwanami Shoten 1964
Call No. 909-cS65z-I
The author is a pioneer in the development of children’s libraries in Canada. The translators assess this book highly as an essential introduction to the criteria on which children’s literature is judged. The title page is shown in the image.

Thumbnail of Kodomo no toshokan [Children's library]

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C-1-20Kodomo no toshokan [Children's library]
Written by Momoko Ishii
Iwanami Shoten 1965
(Iwanami shinsho [Iwanami paper book])
Call No. 016.25-I583k
This book contains the operational records of a private library called Katsura bunko, which the author ran out of her home for roughly seven years as part of her research how to encourage children to read. It contains the author’s ideas about how children read, the operation of public libraries, and emphasized that there be “as many libraries as there are postboxes throughout the country.”

Thumbnail of Ishii Momoko shu [Collected works of Momoko Ishii] 1

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C-1-21Ishii Momoko shu [Collected works of Momoko Ishii] 1
Written by Momoko Ishii
Iwanami Shoten 1998
Call No. KH196-G152
This book includes the stories Nonchan kumo ni noru [Non-chan rides the clouds] and Sangatsu hina no tsuki [The dolls' day for Yoshiko]. The seven-volume anthology was completed the year after this volume was published. The title page is shown in the image.