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  • Writer's pictureMary Boone

Six Questions with Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson

Updated: Jul 6

Sharon Fujimoto-Johnson is the author-illustrator of The Mochi Makers (S&S/Beach Lane Books).

In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews calls this book “a storytelling treat to be savored among family…. Each step of this tasty story glows with joy and kindness, punctuated by rich sensory language.” Sharon’s second book, Shell Song (S&S/Beach Lane Books, 2025), is inspired by the seashells her grandfather collected in a Japanese American incarceration camp in Hawai‘i during World War II. 

Visit Sharon's website to learn more about her and her work. You can also find her on Instagram @sharonfjart and X @sharonffj.

1. When you're creating a new book, which comes first for you? The words or the pictures? 

I think this balance is constantly shifting, and sometimes it’s neither words nor the art but rather a feeling or moment that seizes my heart. Ultimately, I think I hope to create stories that move readers’ hearts, and sometimes I have to circle back multiple times and try different ways of expressing a moment, whether through the words or the art. The most satisfying revisions for me are when I keep trying to capture a moment until I finally reach that sweet spot where the words and art work together to create emotional resonance. 

2. When you do you write? How often do you write? Where do you write? 

Because I’m also a mom, I work whenever I can. I often work while my kids are in school and after they are in bed at night. Initially, I started working on my children’s books while propped up in bed as I recovered from chemo and radiation. As I recovered, I moved to an armchair in the corner of our bedroom. Now I’ve taken up part of our loft that overlooks the balcony garden I started during the pandemic. This is my happy place, and I’m working blissfully in that space almost every single day. 

3. What are you working on? What’s next for you? 

When I was around ten, I inherited my grandfather’s shell collection. He had collected these shells in a Japanese American incarceration camp in Hawai’i during World War II. My second book, Shell Song (S&S/Beach Lane Books, 2025), is inspired by those shells, and it has been an intense, rewarding experience to create this book. Digitally-collaged into the artwork for this book are my grandfather’s shells, the actual soil/sand from the incarceration camps, and textures from my grandmother’s wedding kimono. I hope readers will love this book as much as I did as I made it. 

4. Where did you get the idea for this book? What was your inspiration? 

When I wrote the first draft of this book, I was suffering major complications from cancer treatment, and I was nourished artificially through a PICC line in my arm for several months. Because I couldn’t eat anything by mouth, I was actually thinking a lot about food, family, and love and where they intersect. I dreamed up this story in that headspace and found that even though I could not bite into mochi—rice cakes that are so important to Japanese and Japanese American culture—I could still savor and celebrate this food within the pages of my book. 

5. If you could tell readers one secret about this book, what would it be?

Collaged into the artwork of this book are some of my family photos. They include my grandparents’ wedding photo, my dad and his brothers as little boys, my grandmother as a little girl in a kimono. There’s even a photo of me and my mom wearing kimonos! There are also packages of mochi labeled with the names of loved ones, friends, and even my publishing team. These are some of my favorite details in the book, and they also feel very true to the core theme of this book: mochi as a symbol of tradition, gratitude, and love. 

6. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with? 

My hope is that kids find a warm, cozy world in The Mochi Makers, and that it leaves them with the feeling that ordinary moments can be beautiful and special. I think kids already know this, but I hope that this book affirms that for young readers. An afternoon making mochi can be sweet and full of meaning when you are spending that time with a loved one, cherishing precious memories, and sharing mochi as a way of honoring tradition and expressing gratitude and love for friends and family. 

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