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Artist Ryoji Arai and poet Hiroshi Osada, the Japanese team behind critically acclaimed Every Color of Light, offer up another meditation on the natural world in this ode to water. A lyrical moment between parent and child in a boat on a river unfolds into an examination of the water that surrounds them, and the nature and life sustained by it: "It’s only oxygen and hydrogen. Simple as could be, and yet nothing means more to life as we know it."
Arai's lush art and Osada's evocative poetry, beautifully translated from Japanese by David Boyd, work together to enchant readers and refresh their spirit, opening their eyes to the wonders of water, the universe, and life.
? “In a spare text, this Japanese import explores the functions, properties, and inherent contradictions of water. Two small humans leave home and set out in a rowboat. Water, reads the narration of this follow-up to Every Color of Light (2020), is ‘only oxygen and hydrogen, simple as can be,’ yet it sustains life. This statement is accompanied by a full-bleed spread in which readers see the two humans row along a wave of stars next to the Earth. Water, however, is also paradoxical in nature: ‘It has no color, but can be any color,’ for instance. It has no shape but can take on various shapes, and you can touch it but not actually hold it. The musings are sometimes metaphorical (‘like the mother of us all, it creates life’) and often ethereal. In a dramatic shift in tone, the narration then states: ‘It is the pee of life.’ Here, the voice, which has hitherto spoken of you and we, shifts to a first-person-singular one, and the narrator acknowledges a child asking if water is the ‘pee-pee of the gods.’ (This will undoubtedly delight the youngest of readers.) Dense textures, a palette with a stunning use of light, and panoramic landscapes establish a sweeping, grandiose tone that pays its respects to Mother Nature. Resplendent yellows and rich shades of blues and greens are the stars of the show. The book closes on a metafictive note: After referencing the child who asks about gods, the narrator states on the final page: ‘And then, I wrote this poem.’ Wondrous.” -STARRED REVIEW, Kirkus
"An adult and child set off in a rowboat for an overnight camping trip in this author-illustrator team’s (Every Color of Light) latest collaboration. Osada’s poetic text is a series of phrases and riddles exploring everything water can be, from the profound ('It has no color, but can be any color. It has no shape, but can take any shape') to the playful ('It is the pee of life'). Arai’s impressionistic illustrations, in bright shades of sky blue and spring green, move the story forward while giving form to Osada’s observations. Some paintings focus on the concrete, such as a waterfall demonstrating how water 'cascades and courses.' Others match the text’s fancifulness, as when the characters row on a sea of stars. The words and pictures together become the story of an older person imparting wisdom to a younger one as they explore the world together." -The Horn Book
“Eons after we rose from the primordial ocean, water courses through us, comprising the vast majority of our bodies, composing the entire symphony of aliveness with its miniature oceans walled within each silent cell. That silent symphony comes alive in the lovely illustrated poem Almost Nothing, yet Everything: A Book about Water by Japanese poet Hiroshi Osada, artist Ryoji Arai, and translator David Boyd-the trio behind the subtle and wondrous Every Color of Light. From its delicately painted pages, which this screen representation drains of splendor, water springs eternal yet endlessly mutable. As father and child embark on a riverine journey in their slender red boat, haloed by their wide-brimmed sun hats, we see them-the large sun and the small sun-encounter water, 'the mother of us all,' in its various guises: changing shape and color, flowing 'like tears' and raining down 'like falling stars,' cascading over waterfalls and coursing along rivers, giving shape and substance to everything we know as life.” -Maria Popova, The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings)
“Translated from the original Japanese, this picture book is beautifully poetic. It looks at the many aspects of water through the eyes of a child who is interacting with it on a journey along the river. The ending of the book adds a child’s question about whether water is the pee-pee of the gods. After such a lyrical poem, the question is marvelous in its honesty, simplicity and wonder… Arai’s illustrations are exceptional. Filled with the beauty of water, they capture it both in its impact on landscapes and as it flows through one’s fingers. The large landscapes are deep green and dramatic while the close ups are personal and capture small moments of discovery. The combination of the two make the importance of water in our lives clear. Another winning elemental picture book from Japan.” -Tasha Saecker, Waking Brain Cells
Ryoji Arai was born in Yamagata, Japan, in 1956. He has an illustrative style all of his own: bold, mischievous and unpredictable. Arai studied art at Nippon University. His art is at once genuine and truly poetic, encouraging children to paint and to tell their own stories. He took the Japanese picture-book world by storm in the 1990s. Since then, he has one multiple awards, including the international Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005.
David Boyd is Assistant Professor of Japanese at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His translations have appeared in Monkey Business International, Granta, and Words Without Borders, among other publications.