World Kid Lit Month Review: It Might Be An Apple by Shinsuke Yoshitake

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

Shinsuke Yoshitake’s witty and amusing picture books have enjoyed a growing following since his debut title Ringo kamoshirenaiIt Might Be An Apple—appeared in Japan in 2013. Since clinching the Art Award at the 61st Sankei Juvenile Literature Publishing Culture Awards in 2014, this title has also been published in Chinese, Dutch, French, Korean, Swedish, and English (by Thames & Hudson, 2015).

Left: UK edition of It Might Be An Apple. Right: Shinsuke Yoshitake (

In It Might Be An Apple, Yoshitake turns an entirely mundane non-event on its head: A boy comes home to find an apple sitting on the table. His imagination jumpstarts a mish-mash of stories and plots, about what the apple might contain inside, what it might actually be, or what it could have been and could turn into. (Click on the cover above to see illustrations.) Taking things a step further, the boy wonders if the apple has desires, wishes and feelings, and whether it has a family.

Driven by an imagination that is simply inspired, the boy ponders how the apple ended up on the table, where it might have been before that, and where it might be planning to go. A bit of fear takes hold when the boy suspects that the “apple” was just waiting for a chance to take the boy’s own place in the world, or was deviously put there as kid-bait.

Eventually, hunger pangs rein in the boy’s want-away thoughts, and he gives the apple a mighty bite. He reunites with reality and the apple as it is.

The English translation stays close to the spirit of Yoshitake’s quirky original, retaining the sense of humor while offering a few subtle variations. The fun of shaping the rooms of an apple-house (by eating through its walls) is expressed by a pitch for the best house ever, complete with edible interior! The culture gap of the distant-yet-familiar Japanese ancestor is bridged by a grandma in apple disguise. Finally, a spread with all apple-kinds lined up according to a Japanese kana table, in the original, sports creative renaming in English based on the apples’ shapes and appearances.

Both the original and the translation let us journey into the world of imagination, and show us the plenitude of stories our minds can conjure at a whim.



Other English translations of Yoshitake’s work include What Happens Next? and Can I Build Another Me? (Thames & Hudson) as well as Still Stuck (Abrams), for which the original Mo nugenai (Bronze Publishing, 2015) won a Special Mention at the 2017 Bologna Children’s Book Fair Bologna Ragazzi Awards. Still Stuck is released in the US today. Happy World Kid Lit Month!

Andrew Wong joined the SCBWI Japan Translation Group listserv in 2015, when in search of a community focused on translated books for children. A business translator by trade, he finds time to introduce Japanese picture books and stories that speak to him on his blog, in hopes that they will one day find a worldwide audience.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mlynxqualey on September 26, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    Thanks, this book looks very exciting! I can’t seem to find the name of the translator, here or on other pages about the book. Can you enlighten us? Thanks!


    • Hi, I did ask, and the response I got from the publisher is that the English translation was done in-house, jointly with the originating publisher. The author himself was also consulted in the process.


  2. I would love to see the publishers of Shinsuke Yoshitake in English #namethetranslator (or translators).


  3. Posted by Karen Van Drie on November 2, 2018 at 12:52 am

    I purchased all of these titles based on this blog post. I am so glad I did! What a joyful, fun writer. I love the books in this order, a fact I am merely sharing for anyone who has a limited budget; it could be helpful: 1) Still Stuck (one long delighted giggle!), 2) What happens next? (paired with the Danish title, Cry Heart, but Never Break a school, organization, or family would be ready to provide wonderful bibliotheraphy titles for a student who experienced a grandparent’s death), 3) Can I Build Another Me? (fabulous reflections on who am I?), and 4) It Might Be an Apple (what else could it be?). Thank you for introducing me and my students to this utterly imaginative, creative talent. I rationed myself to reading one a day when I first got them, because they made me so happy and delighted.


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