The King of Circles

Shuntaro Tanikawa and Kiyoshi Awazu

The King of Circles by Shuntaro Tanikawa, designed and illustrated by Kiyoshi Awazu, translated by Yosuke Kitazawa and Ottilia Tanaka / ISBN 9781957625010 / 9 x 9.25 inches, printed offset in full color / Forthcoming in spring 2023 from 50 Watts Books


First published in 1971, The King of Circles takes the reader into a colorful world where round objects compete for the title of "King of Circles." An absorbing and fast-paced story which sends the reader spinning like a billiard ball, King of Circles is a free-spirited and imaginative collaboration between poet Shuntaro Tanikawa and graphic designer Kiyoshi Awazu. Bold colors combined with precise line art and a playful text make King of Circles a truly unique picture book.

Born in Tokyo in 1931, Shuntaro Tanikawa is a poet, translator, author, and screenwriter. During a prolific career spanning more than sixty years, Tanikawa has become one of the most well-regarded modern poets in Japan. His work has garnered praise both domestically and abroad, with his collection Floating the River in Melancholy winning the American Book Award in 1989. Known for his clear yet sophisticated prose, his works often feature philosophical elements presented in an easy-to-understand way. Tanikawa’s translation portfolio includes Charles Schulz’ Peanuts and Mother Goose, for which he won the Translation Culture Award in 1975. Tanikawa has also authored many stories for children and was nominated for the Andersen Award in 2008.

Kiyoshi Awazu was a self-taught graphic designer born in Tokyo in 1929. Fascinated by the intersection of Japanese tradition with modern culture, his imaginative works blended elements from Japanese woodblock prints, calligraphy and Buddhist art with bold colors and confident lines. Influenced by the works of American artist Ben Shahn, a strong political conscience is evident in Awazu’s works. The Return Our Sea poster, which won the grand prize at Nissenbi Exhibition in 1955 and cemented his position as an influential artist in post-war Japan, was created to protest the disruption to the lives of traditional fishermen caused by the American occupation of Japan. Known primarily as a graphic designer, Awazu’s curiosity and keen interest in the world around him led him to expand his colorful portfolio to painting, theater, three-dimensional works, and picture books.

About 50 Watts Books publications: While running the bookstore over the last year, I've been working on four books at the top of my list of dream projects. These books have fascinated (and confused) me for years -- longtime followers of the blog might recognize some -- and I'm excited to put them into the world. To follow their progress and be alerted when preorders begin, sign up for the 50 Watts Books email list

Read about Kiyoshi Awazu at the website of the gallery Nonaka Hill.

Wholesale inquiries welcome - will AT