Hina and her mother open the front door to discover a tiny kitten whose own mother seemingly deems they are suitable humans to be trusted to care for one of her offspring. The kitten is a sad-looking, sickly creature and Hina is none too eager to take on the task. However, once they’ve tended to her gooey eyes and washed the kitten, the girl notices the beauty in its eyes and begins to fall under its spell. They give it milk and make it a bed and then Hina’s mother goes out to buy some cat food. After a while Hina searches for the kitten but is unable to find it, convincing herself it’s got lost. She starts remembering how she felt when she’d been lost while out shopping with her mother, and becomes more desperate, hunting inside and then out.
Eventually she finds the little thing: the kitten has found its own special place to have a nap and by this time the child has thought up the perfect name for her new friend; it’s Sleepy.
I’m anything but a cat lover – the creatures make me wheezy – but this tiny creature really won my heart. So too did young Hina, whose changing feelings are so beautifully portrayed in both Lee’s straightforward text “Sleepy, let’s be friends forever, okay? Hey, stop sleeping so much. Are you listening, Sleepy?”; and Sakai’s evocative, gently tinted illustrations that deserve to be lingered over. With its themes of helplessness and love, this is a lovely, warm-hearted book to share.