The Smile Shop
The Smile Shop
Satoshi Kitamura. London: Scallywag Press, pb, 978 1 9126 5045 3, 2020, £12.99, 32pp.
Picture book, fiction, 6+ years
It is market day in town and the little boy is very excited: he has brought all his pocket money to buy himself something for the very first time.
There is a bewildering array of choices all around him from tempting food, to hats, to clocks. But before he can make up his mind, he loses his money in a freak accident. His hopes are dashed – he can’t buy anything now and he is utterly crestfallen; until he spots a shop called ‘Smile.’ Confused and intrigued, he enters the shop hoping to buy a small smile so he can stop feeling so miserable. Inside, the enigmatic shopkeeper’s actions reveal one of life’s important lessons to this self-dependent young boy: we don’t need money to make us smile. An act of kindness, even from a stranger, is enough to lift our hearts.
Accompanying this beautiful story is artwork that is quintessential Kitamura, recalling his earlier works, particularly Millie’s Marvellous Hat. The images capture the urbanscapes bustling with the minutia of life in muted colours that are at once uplifting and nostalgic, quite reminiscent of a Breughel painting. On each doublespread, the young protagonist stands out in his brightly coloured clothes. This contrast is heightened when he loses his money and the entire world around him is leached of colour. The first person narration instantly evokes the reader’s empathy and when the boy sees his smile reflected in everyone around him, the reader smiles along with him. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the picture book is the sense of anticipation and solo adventure that brims on each page. A comforting picturebook to share, with plenty of opportunities to start small conversations about the big things in life.
Review by Soumi Dey