Keiko Kasza was born on a small Japanese island in the Inland Sea of Japan. She grew up in a typical Japanese extended family with her parents, two brothers, and grandparents. Uncles, aunts, and cousins also lived nearby. "All the steps I took growing up were very normal," Ms. Kasza says. "The only unusual thing I did was go to college in the United States." She graduated with a degree in graphic design from California State University at Northridge. Ms. Kasza married an American, and the United States has been her home ever since.
After publishing five children's books in Japan and working as a
graphic designer for fourteen years, Ms. Kasza decided in 1988 to
devote her time to picture books. She says, "Having two small boys
and two professions was too much to handle."Ms. Kasza admires many
great picture-book creators, such as Leo Lionni and Maurice Sendak,
but says that the work of Arnold Lobel has influenced her the most.
The subtle humor and warmth he created in his books continues to
inspire me," she says. "I often go back to his work when I get
discouraged or lose confidence."Ms. Kasza compares the process of
making a book to acting on stage under the lights:
"I become the character that I'm working on at that moment. I pretend that I'm a bird looking for a mother, or a pig trying to impress his girlfriend. When I'm acting, I'm a child myself."Ms. Kasza's ambition is not to create a hundred books, but to "create one really good book that will be kept on the family bookshelves for generations, although a hundred really good books would be even better, of course!"Keiko Kasza lives in Indiana with her husband and two sons.copyright (c) 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
PreS-K --Fans of Kasza's previous picture books will welcome this latest effort. Cheerful, energetic illustrations decorate the simple but charming taleof a youngster's search for a loving parent. A chubby-faced yellow bird with blue-striped feet, Choco believes that physical similarity is a prerequisite for family relationships. He asks a series of animals who bear even the slightest resemblance to him if they might be his mother, but all turn him away. Discouraged by their rejection, Choco is pleasantly surprised when Mrs. Bear takes an interest in him, plays with and cuddles him, and ultimately offers him a home. The presence of other ``adoptees'' is made obvious as a young alligator, hippopotamus, and pig welcome Choco into his new family. The endearing watercolor paintings are bold and bright enough to appeal to the very youngest listeners, and there is a wealth of character and personality evident in the animals' expressions. These pictures, along with the minimal, repetitive text, make this an excellent choice for storytime use. The emphasis on caring and sharing despite superficial differences will surely find a wide audience. A multicultural message may also be read into this satisfying story with appealing illustrations and a very happy ending. --Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
"The message is warm and reassuring, particularly to adoptees, stepkids, and other children who for various reasons don't resemble their caretakers." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Just right for the preschool group or beginning reader." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review "Cheerful, energetic . . . An excellent choice for storytime." --School Library Journal, starred review "A profound message, endearingly and subtly delivered. An ideal choice for adopted or foster children." --Publishers Weekly