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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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More Than An Apple

Yumi Takeuchi

Jul. 25, 2016

Author Shinsuke Yoshitake has created a picture book that captures the imagination as well as the eye. "It Might Be An Apple" has been a popular choice for young and old in Japan since its publication 3 years ago.

It's about a boy whose imagination comes alive while pondering a simple piece of fruit. The book challenges readers to set their imaginations free by suspending judgment and first impressions.

"It would make me really happy if readers came up with their own answers in response to the story or pictures in my book," Yoshitake says.

He has since published 6 other picture books to critical acclaim, but his debut publication continues to encourage an appetite for tolerance. It has been translated into 6 languages, including English, Korean, and Swedish.

Yoshitake's life motto is “Don't draw conclusions from judgment." It sounds a bit hard to understand.

In June, the author held a reading for children in Kumamoto City. Yoshitake has been traveling around the country. He loves to interact with children. Adults have been drawn to his books as well.

"He puts things that are difficult to express as adults into words or images," says one woman at the event.

Yoshitake says there his motto illustrates that there "isn't just one way of thinking or one answer."

"It all depends on your perception," he says. "I hope my readers can learn through experience that they have the power to change their world."

Yoshitake's perspective on life started to form when he was in high school. His teacher was giving him advice about his future. He started to question the idea that people had to have dreams.

"I felt pressured when I was told that I should have dreams about my future or that I would fail if I didn't make an effort to make my dreams come true," Yoshitake says. "I think I would've been better off if someone had told me that I didn't have to decide everything at once or that it's okay to pursue what I'm interested in at the moment because there are many ways to perceive the world."

He took his high school teacher's advice and majored in the arts at university. One of his projects was a peculiar helmet. The helmet makes both people's voices the same. They can feel relaxed about speaking freely because others can't distinguish between the voices.

After graduating, Yoshitake worked as a book illustrator for more than 10 years. But he never thought that he himself would be an author of picture books. He'd been sketching for many years as a hobby.

Yoshitake published his first picture book after a friend who was a book editor suggested the idea to him. Readers have been attracted to his honest portrayals of his ideas.

His latest book came out in April. It's about a boy who finds his dead grandfather's notebook, which is full of ideas about life after death.

In heaven, "there's a toilet with a great view" and "You learn how to fly," the books says. But in hell, "it really stinks."

His vision of hell still has some humor in it. It's a reflection of Yoshitake’s worldview, where he leaves judgment behind.

"For example, how do you handle sadness? If you have a more flexible perspective, it might be easier to cope with those feelings and still be able to enjoy life. You might call this adaptability or flexibility, and it would be ideal if my readers find this method interesting and are willing to try it," Yoshitake says.

His books seem to have been well received because they focus on universal values that people can relate to, regardless of their cultural or religious backgrounds. It just might help them see things from different points of view.