Kazuno Kohara’s work spikes daily life with a shot of magic. The stories are firmly rooted in common situations (moving into a new house, playing during winter, visiting the library, and making friends), but with a supernatural aspect (ghosts, dragons, an elemental force, a witch, and talking animals). The narrative never points out these presences as unusual and no characters are othered; everyone is included and the endings are always happy. At this time she has written four picture books (The Midnight Library, Ghosts in the House, Little Wizard, and Here Comes Jack Frost) and each is fucking enchanting.
There is a common aesthetic running through each work. The art style utilizes chunky, boldly bordered images made with linocuts. All four titles also stick to a consistent scheme of three distinct colors for the background, text, and main characters. The characters are outlined in white, black, or the background color, and emotions are clearly communicated through subtle changes in their simple facial features. The scenes offer a refreshing lack of detail; they are bright, solid, and easy on the eyes.
Each work focuses on animal-human friendship. There is a witch and her cat, the wizard and his dragon, the boy and his dog, and the girl and her owls all working together to take care of business and have fun. Only Little Wizard touches on human friendship, but the emphasis is on his bond with the dragon. The animals assist their human companions in chores as well as play, whether by helping run a library, laundering ghosts, or learning how to fly. These are such sweet depictions of people and other animals being good to each other.
While each picture book includes a paranormal element, two of the titles have predominantly mystical plots. Here Comes Jack Frost centers on a bored little boy and his dog getting into snowy shenanigans with Jack Frost himself. They ski, sled, snowboard, make snowmen, and have snowball fights until the boy accidentally says a magic word that sends winter away until the next year. Ghosts in the House is about a young witch and her cat that catch all the ghosts in a haunted house, wash them, and then decorate the house with the (mostly) happy ghosts.
So, we’re talking about four books published in a row with captivating, minimalistic imagery and gushingly happy, supernatural storylines. If you call yourself a fan of picture books (and really, how is a picture book different from a graphic novel?), keep an eye out for this up-and-coming author.