David Biedrzycki: SumoKitty

Illustrated by the author

Published by Charlesbridge, 2019

It’s not often that I come across a picture book that addresses so many teachable values in life. SumoKitty oozes wisdom about humility, resilience, resourcefulness, satisfaction, complacency, opportunism and the value of hard work. Not forgetting the importance of enjoying what you eat!

There are a number of wise sayings in the story, but my favourite one is at the beginning: “’Fall down seven times; get up eight’. It means never give up.”

No matter what your age, we can all benefit from hearing that once in our lives. Because who of us has not come to a crossroad, a decision that rests on staying or leaving, when either path seems right, and the only decision we have to make is choosing which way to go forward?

We meet SumoKitty as a stray, who wanders into the heya (training centre) of a group of sumo wrestlers. Enticed by the wonderful smells of fish, noodles and plates of chicken, SumoKitty takes up residence and enjoys feasting on the culinary delights that are served up daily. One day, however, he is caught by the Okamisan (manager of the heya). To eat and earn his keep, SumoKitty must now work and rid the centre of all the mice which Kuma the sumo wrestler is so fearful of.

SumoKitty does the job well and gets so fat and lazy, that the mice who were chased away, start to come back. Quick as a flash, SumoKitty is tossed out of the heya, and the good fortune which was so abundant, is lost once again.

Here is the lesson for SumoKitty: stay lost and become a stray for the second time or take the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and move toward his heart’s desire. With the help of his friend Kuma, who has his own fears to face, SumoKitty finds a way forward. It takes hard work, perseverance and dedication, but combined with a little ingenuity and courage, SumoKitty and Kuma stand tall again.

I can highly recommend this book for children 5-10 years, the illustrations cleverly enhance the text, SumoKitty is sooo cute, and there is a photo at the end of the story of Sox, the original SumoKitty!

Here are my recommendations for more stories about resilience and how the vicissitudes of life have been navigated by others.

I have recommended Ella Holcombe’s picture book about her experience in the Black Saturday fires of 2009, I would advise adults to read it before sharing Ella’s memories of this event with young readers.

One Step at a Time
by Jane Jolly
Illustrated by
Sally Heinrich
How to Heal a Broken Wing
by Bob Graham
The House on the Mountain
by Ella Holcombe
Illustrated by
David Cox
Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten
by Bob Graham
Good Enough for a
Sheep Station by
David Cox
The Lion and the Mouse
by Jerry Pinkney
The Little Refugee
by Anh Do and
Suzanne Do
Illustrated by
Bruce Whatley