Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 26 Oct 2023

When Creature Met Creature by John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura

When two creative powerhouses like John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura collaborate on a project, you know that something special will come of it. Agard is a poet, playwright and children’s author who has won his fair share of awards but who we love here at the Letterpress Project for his vivacity, his humour and his commitment to social justice. And, we’re delighted to say that Satoshi Kitamura is a friend of the Project (you can see the exclusive interview he gave us by clicking on this link) who is an endlessly inventive illustrator-author. Scallywag Press has done us all a big favour by bringing the pair together for the first time – but hopefully not the last.

The book tells the story of Creature-Of-No-Words who lives his life through feelings and sensations. He has no language, no words, to express what the world makes him feel and so he expresses himself through his physicality – he flaps his arms, turns back-flips, lies in silent contemplation or seeks the comfort of heat and fire. But Creature-Of-No-Words has his negative feelings too – like the chilling touch of ice or the anger and frustration of ‘something..really un-making his day. But SAD was not a word he knew how to say.’

Then one day, Creature-Of-No-Words is spotted by Creature-of-Words, who also loved to live her life through feelings but she had words to say out loud and didn’t have to express herself physically all the time. When Creature-of-Words found Creature-Of-No-Words was feeling glum and rumbling a strange growl, she approached him and said, ‘Hug! Hug!’

“From that day the two of the lived together in a house, where words also lived, which was all well and good.”

But words have not replaced feelings and the two of them discover the pleasure that can be found when you stop talking and you just let yourself be – taking in the magic of the world.

This seemingly simple story is, like all fairy tales, introducing the young reader to some important ideas about the use of language and how it helps us construct the world around us and share our feelings with others. But it also reminds us that words can sometimes get in the way of feelings and there are times when we just need to feel the world through our physicality.

It's all about balance.

And, of course, Satoshi Kitamura's distinctive colour palette helps create the world of our two creatures. This is a softer Kitamura than we sometimes get but no less inventive and we are helped to feel the fur, the ice, the fire and the sheer open space that they live in. This is words and drawings working in harmony to create more than the sum of their parts.

The book is available from Scallywag Press and you’ll be able to get a copy from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have it on the shelf.

Terry Potter

October 2023