This post was written by artist, illustrator, graphic designer, and da Shop bookseller, Mariko Merritt
Hi! Since your eyes are here, I’m assuming books are important to you for one reason or another. For me they’re an escape, and obviously now is a good time for that. State of emergency or not, though, all the same anxieties come to visit me, so I like to search out and hold dear books that are just plain and simple goodness. The Chirri & Chirra picture book series is one of my faves. It’s six adorably chipper books by Japanese author/illustrator, Kaya Doi. In each book, the sisters Chirri and Chirra take their bikes on adventures - “Dring-dring!” - exploring nature or the nearby town, meeting friendly creatures, and finding delicious things to eat. And they always have a perfectly wonderful day.
I will admit, here, that I have no first-hand experience of real life kids responding to these books. All I can say for sure is that I, as a grown up picture book lover, fully enjoy the books, and I just wanted to ramble on about them for a bit. That said, take a look inside!
One of the reasons I’m obsessed with these books is because I’m a total sucker for books that include food. The snacks that Chirri and Chirra eat are the fabulous pastry chef versions of the seeds/flowers/tree sap concoctions your younger self might have dreamed up in the playground or backyard. Honey cakes made by bees, glowing fluorite candies, sea-spray parfait… They’re so delectable, and so Japanese!
The bees make honey cakes, of course… but look at their house! It’s a lovely mish-mash of beehive and human house - honeycomb shelving, miniature kitchen implements, and a cosy set of two armchairs and a coffee table. It reminds me of the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem from the 1970/80s. Do you remember it?
The Brambly Hedge mice live in hollowed out trees furnished with old-fashioned furniture and whatever in-season goodies that nature offers. I googled the books and found out that this year is Brambly Hedge’s 40th anniversary! There’s a lovely website www.bramblyhedge.co.uk and it’s on instagram, too. Mind-bending, in a way, to see these books from my childhood come back to life online. But they’ll never disappear, they’re that loved, I guess!
Another book that I’m reminded of is this old Dutch book on Gnomes. I was OBSESSED with it as a kid. I guess all these books get me thinking about another world, just carrying on alongside us. Invisible to us because it’s so small, or maybe because we don’t pay attention. It’s fun to imagine that these fantastic places might really exist, like maybe all you have to do is lie down in the grass and watch the world from there. That’s the feeling I get from Chirri & Chirra. I can get lost pouring over the details in Doi’s drawings. If I let myself feel like I don’t have to be anywhere doing anything else, I can pedal along with C&C, enjoying nature and whatever comes our way.
A quick note about the image at the top of the page. In addition to working here at da Shop, I’m an artist and illustrator, and occasionally I need a silly art project to make myself feel better… Does that ever work for you, too? We restocked a bunch of Chirri & Chirra books and needed to introduce them to you - online somehow - so I was motivated to make a promo image. First, I thought of photographing the books in nature, but that’s not really my style, so I decided to make my own nature backgrounds.
I love using cut paper because it can be super quick. Quick cuts, simple shapes. My secret weapon is one of my favorite craft supplies - a 1.75” circle punch. No, I do not cut perfect circles by hand! The other secret here is that nothing is glued down, so I can reuse the pieces later. I mean, cut paper always comes in handy for something, right? Cards, bookmarks, paper lei, collage art... After photographing, I added text in photoshop and voila! “Dring-dring! Dring-dring!”
Thanks for coming along on that ramble! I’ll wrap up by telling you that the newest Chirri & Chirra book came out this month, and I’m super excited, because it’s called Chirri & Chirra: Under the Sea. What will C&C encounter underwater? We kids in Hawai‘i will surely relate. We carry five books in this series. Check them out below...and have a perfectly wonderful day!
Mariko Merritt is an artist, illustrator and graphic designer living in Honolulu. She has illustrated several children’s books including Kai Goes to the Farmer’s Market, Hush Little Keiki, and Island Toes. Mariko was born and raised in Hawai‘i, and earned a degree in Graphic Design from Rhode Island School of Design. You can connect with Mariko on Instagram (@heybeachcake) or at her website: www.marikomerritt.com.