Forky is a lively fork boy who lives on Tabletop Hill. He loves playing
with his friends at Sugar Cube park. And that’s where they are one day,
when the sudden sound of clanging bells make them all freeze with fear.
Oh no, it’s Monster Day! Forky’s friends run home, but Forky’s wide-eyed
curiosity leads him to discover a whole new circle of friends, who turn
out to be not so scary after all.
When an award-winning author, translator and illustrator all come
together to create a book, the result can be nothing but special. That’s
the first thought that comes to mind while reading Monster Day on Tabletop Hill.
Author Akiko Sueyoshi’s latest work, in collaboration with acclaimed
translator Cathy Hirano and sculptor-turned-illustrator David Liew, is a
lively story about Forky, the little fork boy who lives in a mug-cup
Forky is out playing in Sugar Cube Park on Monster Day, when he hears
bells clanging, announcing the arrival of the guardians of clean,
Grandpa Sweep-Sweep and Granny Wipe-Wipe, who sweep-sweep and wipe-wipe
at everything that’s in their path, determined to get Tabletop Hill as
clean as can be. It’s a particularly distressing day for carelessly
wandering creatures and monsters, who may well be swept away into
nothingness, never to return.
While dodging this bustling pair, Forky chances upon a glowing
pumpkin in the middle of a field. And out of this pumpkin house comes a
delightfully motley crew: little biscuit bats, musical chocolate
skeletons and . . . the four Marshomon.
Monsters though they are, Forky isn’t afraid of the Marshomon at all,
joining in their dancing and inviting them all out to play in Sugar
Cube Park, where they shoot at lollipops till scrumptious ice-cream and
juices ooze out.
Their wonderful adventure must end, however, when the ominous bells
clang once again and the doors to Pumpkin House begin to close. A pacey
and engaging read, Forky’s adventure will keep little readers in thrall
from beginning to end.
This book is one more feather in the cap of award-winning children’s
author Akiko Sueyoshi, who is no stranger to picture books. Her most
popular story, the long-selling Mori no Kakurenbō (Hide-and-Seek in the Forest), was
first published in 1978. Since then, she has won several awards for her
work, including the Shogakukan Children’s Publication Culture Award in
1999 for Amefuribana Saita (When the Rainflowers Bloomed) and two Newcomer Prizes for Hoshi ni kaetta shōjo (The Girl Who Returned to the Star), as well as the Noma Award for Children’s Literature for Mama no kīroi kozō(Mummy’s Little Yellow Elephant).
Monster on Tabletop Hill is written in prose, in Sueyoshi’s
typically concise style and filled with little details that set the mood
of the story. The work of Cathy Hirano, translator of the Moribito
series with two Batcheldor Awards under her belt, means that both
English and Japanese audiences can enjoy this bilingual picture book in
the best possible way. Hirano’s contribution to Sueyoshi’s story is
subtle but evident; the translation is simple and energetic, faithful to
the mood and setting of the original Japanese text.
Bright and quirky illustrations by David Liew—known to fans as Wolfe, the illustrator of the EllieBelly
series written by Eliza Teoh—bring this delightful little story
entirely to life. The expressions on Forky’s face, the chocolate
skeletons with their instruments and a grinning pumpkin house all add
significant depth to the text.
The whole story with its joyful illustrations, written simply but so
engagingly, carries with it an air of a fun celebration, where monsters
with swirling scarves dance to the beat of drums and lost hats can be
the beginning of a friendship. Sadly, the monsters must soon return to
their pumpkin lair and we are forced to say goodbye to little Forky. His
romp with the Marshomon and the other monsters is over far too soon.
Malavika Nataraj is the author of Suraya’s Gift: The Story Catcher Children and is an aspiring Japanese-to-English translator.