| This is the first book of “Nontan Asobôyo” [Let’s Play Together,
Nontan] series of picture books for younger children created by Ôtomo
Yasuomi and Ôtomo Sachiko (now Kiyono Sachiko). The series is a best
seller having sold 26 million copies in total as of 2002. It is a story
of a mischievous kitten called Nontan. Things happening in the everyday
life of children are described in words with unique rhythm and with plain
pictures, which attracted child readers.|
When Nontan is playing on a swing, Usagi-san (rabbit) comes along and says, “Nontan, let me swing, too.” But Nontan says no. Then Kuma-san (bear) comes along, and then Buta-san (pig), and many friends one after another and they ask the same question, but Nontan keeps sitting on the swing. When they become angry, Nontan says, “You may take my place when I count to ten.” However, in fact Nontan cannot count to ten.
Characters are always drawn in full face with heavy and rather shaking lines. Their countenances are simplified in a way which is easy to understand whether they are smiling or crying. Necessary things like a tree and a swing are drawn in the background in simple line. Pictures are flat and motionless. On the other hand, the text consists of rhythmical conversations.
At first the authors considered a little fox as the protagonist, but the editor advised them to change it to a white kitten, and a set of three picture books (Nontan Buranko Nosete, Nontan Oyasuminasai [Good Night, Nontan] and Akambe Nontan [Nontan Makes a Face]) was planned. Mischievous characters, animals familiar to children like cats, turn in a swing, bed-wetting, and making faces ― all of these are seen and experienced in a child’s everyday life, which is why the books are favored by children.
However, it is true that Nontan books do not have a deep insight into the minds of children. Children mainly enjoy the pictures and rhythm of the text.
There are many kinds of Nontan picture book series. Nontan was made into a television, video, and CD animation. Various kinds of character goods are also produced.