Posts Tagged Mitsumasa Anno


I like everything about the alphabet – origins, history, the shapes of the letters…


Alphabet books I like too.

Like Anno’s Alphabet, a book with lots of pictures of impossible wooden shapes, mostly letters.

These images from Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves.


Then there’s this visual treat by Marion Battaile:


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Anno and Mr Fox


安野 光雅

I mentioned Mitsumasa Anno briefly before. And now, as I was thinking, wondering “What is the Fox doing in the Marketplace?” I turned to Anno’s Aesop (“A book of fables by Aesop and Mr Fox”)

At the foot of the Contents page is this forword to Mr Fox’s fables:

One day, at the edge of the forest, little Freddy Fox found something. He had never seen anything like it before. Perhaps someone had forgotten it, he thought. But it was rather dirty, so maybe it had fallen off the garbage truck. What could it be? Freddy picked it up and hurried home to show it to his fathe.

“That’s what is called a book, Freddy,” said his father. “Books are full of wonderful stories. People like to read them.”

“Oh, please read this book to me!” Freddy begged his father.

But his father only said, “I’m sleepy now. I’ll read it to you tomorrow.”

Maybe Mr Fox was just making excuses. Maybe he couldn’t read at all. But Freddy would not give up. He begged and begged for a story, so finally his father began to read out loud to him.

Some of the stores in this book are what Mr. Fox read to Freddy. Or was he just pretending to read? That’s Mr Fox’s secret! Let’s listen to his stories.

Then for each fable by Aesop there is Mr Fox’s reading of the fable at the bottom of the page.

It seems very clever to me to put these Mr Fox bits at the bottom of the pages. It makes a kind of book within a book. And it makes you think about interpretations, and misinterpretatations.

But Anno has a simpler idea:

“It often happens that what we have seen with our own eyes, or what we have felt in our hearts is closer to the truth than the knowledge we have gained from reading words on a page. A thing may look differently when seen from a different angle. And so, I believe that even a child who cannot yet read words can still learn many valuarble things by thinking ceatively about what he or she sees in the pictueres in this book, just as Freddy Fox does.

Because I travel so much, people often assume that I speak many foreign languages. Actually, however, this is not the case. But, even if I cannot read the words that are written on the signs when I am in a strange land, I can usually guess their meanings and find my way. And so I get along quite well, although, of course, I hope some day to study foreign languages and to be able to read and speak them properly.”

I like this picture of Anno travelling round, sketchbook in hand, in various countries. According to wikipedia he was born in 1926, so he would be, let me see, 83 this year. And he did his Anno’s Spain just five years back.

It seems a shame t hat lots of Anno’s books aren’t in print any more.*

*This is a shame with a lot of brilliant kids’ books. Maybe I will rant about this another time… something to look forward to! 😉

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not forgetting… Mitsumasa Anno



an author-illustrator who seems to have an endless and multifacetted curiosity. I like the way he weaves maths into stories in books like Anno’s mysterious multiplying jar and Anno’s magic seeds . I like the minute detail in his travel books. And we have a book, I can’t remember the title, of vegetables and fruit. In the cover Anno supplied some see-through plastic strips with a sad face on one end and a happy one on the other. You can go through the book and decide whether to give the vegetables sad or happy faces.

I like his fresh ‘primitivity’ of his thinking. For instance in this interview he goes against the trend of talking up cross cultural differences and says about his travels: “In the end, I even came to feel that there were in fact no considerable differences at all. No matter where in the world one is, there are some basic patterns we follow. For example, most houses have a window from which it’s possible to see outside, and roofs are generally pointed so that the rain will run off.”

Perhaps that’s the mathematician in him that can see things in a detached way like that.

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