A Pop up Nantucket Whaler from Japan.
Joan Aiken has inspired, and herself created, some beautiful art work, often with Japanese and also sea-faring connections.
This exquisite cut out card came from a devoted Joan Aiken fan, Kayoko, and arrived fittingly one Valentine’s day.
A new edition of the Dido Twite adventure Night Birds on Nantucket had recently been published in Japan – a labour of love for the translator who had to to convey Dido’s cockney slang, nineteenth century whaling jargon, and the little American island’s old fashioned Puritan speech patterns…
Joan Aiken’s books have flourished in Japan and inspired some beautiful editions:
Another translation, of Cold Shoulder Road, a later book in the Wolves Chronicles featuring Dido’s younger sister Is, was stunningly illustrated by graphic artist Miki Yamamoto. Here in a dramatic sea scene she captures the moment when a Tsunami rolls into town:
Joan’s early memories of her father, poet Conrad Aiken included being carried on his shoulders to look at, and listen to his stories about, the many Japanese prints on the walls of their old home in Rye which used to be a sea port; he named one favourite print ‘The twenty-seven drunken poets.’
Here are twelve of them:
Conrad also supplied her with some very fascinating picture books, which inspired some of her own drawings – here’s an early Christmas card she drew – it could almost be a Night Bird?
The history of Rye and it’s sea faring visitors also inspired an illustrated poem she produced for her father:
Although the sea and sailing ships often feature in Joan Aiken’s books, one story which was particularly near to her heart, was set in the countryside close to her childhood home and celebrates Dido Twite’s return from all her voyages.
The Cuckoo Tree, another of the Wolves Chronicles, has for some reason inspired unknown numbers of Japanese followers to visit this part of the Sussex countryside and try and find the miniature tree – a real live Bonsai – that is the setting of the story. That was how I came to meet Kayoko, who I offered to guide there, and who later sent the beautiful whaling card.
On the Sussex Downs, near the village where Joan grew up, it was a favourite private haunt of her childhood, a place to sit and draw or write, and perhaps appeals to these particular fans because Joan herself was so diminutive – there is just room for one small person:
Joan Aiken would probably be astonished to know what devotion, and artistic creation her writing still inspires…long may it continue!
Happy Valentine’s Day to all, when it comes round again, and many thanks for the lovely letters:
Find out about all the Wolves Chronicles on the Joan Aiken website
Read more about visitors to the Cuckoo Tree here