Momoko Ishii (1907-2008) won numerous awards for a lifetime devoted to children’s literature, including an Art Encouragement Prize in 1951 and the Japan Art Academy Award in 1993. Although she published 19 books and made over 100 translations, it is her behind-the-scenes efforts to shape and promote Japanese children’s literature that is her most enduring legacy.
Born in Saitama Prefecture, Ishii graduated with a degree in English literature from Japan Women’s University in 1928. While still a student, she began her career by summarizing foreign journals and books as a part-time job under the direction of the famous author and publisher Kan Kikuchi (1888-1948), who later established various literary awards, including the Akutagawa Prize and Naoki Prize for popular literature. Coincidentally, Ishii was awarded the Kikuchi Kan Prize in 1954 for her early contributions to children’s literature.