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The Smile Shop

Authored by Satoshi Kitamura
Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
Published by Scallywag Press

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A young boy has saved all his pocket money and sets out to the market to buy himself something for the first time ever. He loves the colours, smells and sights of the market, lingering at the clock stall, trying on a hat, finding an interesting book and being tempted by an intricate but too expensive model boat. Just as he’s making up his mind what to buy, he is knocked over by a skateboarder and almost all of his money disappears down a drain. Disaster. Disconsolate, as he wanders back through the market, he spots a shop called ‘Smile’. Perhaps his one remaining coin will buy a smile. And it does, courtesy of the kind and understanding proprietor of the photography shop. Taking his smile with him, the boy returns home, meeting smiling people on the way.

In an online interview, Satoshi Kitamura recounts his love for the markets of London and two significant occasions when kindness touched him deeply. Rich in detailed images and with the boy retelling his own story, this is another in a long list of Kitamura’s thoughtful (and thought provoking), sensitive stories. The cover and front papers are narratives in themselves, with market stalls piled high with goods, offering an intriguing choice to this young boy. He is pictured throughout in bright colours, suggesting his excitement, and although he is surrounded by many people shopping, talking, going their own ways, they are shown in muted tones, as a backdrop to the boy’s preoccupation with the different stalls he visits – until the accident, when all the surroundings turn to grey, echoing the boy’s despair. In contrast, the photographer is depicted in rich golds and reds, suggesting the warmth of a smile. This is a book about kindness, warmth and the possibilities of happiness which can’t be bought with money and will be enjoyed and revisited by children from 4 or 5 upwards who may well find something new every time they read it.