Thursday, October 01, 2009

Big Wave! Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa and Ed Young

One autumn day Ojiisan's family prepared to walk down to the village to celebrate the rice harvest. To their surprise, Ojiisan did not want to go.

"Something does not feel right." Ojiisan wiped the sweat from his brow. So he and his grandson Tada, stayed home.

Ojiisan and Tada stood on the balcony to watch the celebration below.

It is the best of times. Grandfather is the richest man around, by virtue of his large stone cottage high on the mountainside, his vast rice fields golden with ripe grain, and the wisdom and knowledge he once gleaned from his own Ojiisan, his grandfather's stories. The rice harvest promises to be bountiful, and the villagers, dressed in their best, congregate at the temple to give thanks and to dance out the holiday before the toil of gathering the crop begins.

But Ojiisan feels beneath his feet the rumble of an earthquake, a small one barely noticed by the revelers, who are used to such temblors. But from his vantage Ojiisan sees something the dancers cannot. The waters of the sea are moving--against the wind--beginning to flow away from the shore.

Suddenly he remembers his own Ojiisan's words, told to him as a child, and what the fleeing waters mean.

"Tsunami--the monster wave," he whispered.

Ojiisan knows what the people below cannot yet know, and he knows there is only one way to save them.

"Tada! Hurry!" he said. "Light me a torch!"

Before his grandson's stunned, uncomprehending eyes, Ojiisan runs into his own rice fields, spreading fire from his torch everywhere. The smoke and orange flame rise quickly into the clear blue sky and the people below stop their celebration and then, as the temple bells ring the alarm, begin to run up the mountain to fight the destruction of the fire raging through Grandfather's crop, destroying his wealth.

It is only when they reach his cottage that they can hear Ojiisan's voice:

"Kita!" Ojiisan shouted, pointing toward the sea.

The long darkness was the returning sea, as high as a cliff and as wide as the sky, heading for the village with lightning speed.

"Tsunami!" shrieked the people.

Twice, thrice, four times, the furious sea devoured the village.

The village, the temple, all below is lost in a maelstrom of destruction, but the people, all four hundred of them, realize that they have their lives only because of the wisdom and sacrifice of Ojiisan.

In Tsunami!(Penguin Group, 2009), Kimiko Kajikawa's spare and beautiful text is set out beautifully by the spectacular illustrations of Caldecott medalist Ed Young (for Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China) Young's mixed media express the terror of the towering wave, created in gauche, pastel, and delicate paper fibers, in a blend of beauty and horror which has to be seen, his enormous black, white-crested wave filling the double-page spread, looming over the tiny coastal village with its temple arch and fishing boats calmly at anchor, waiting their destruction. A tour de force, a picture book which perfectly combines words and art to create a memory more emotionally moving that any news video clip.

This powerful picture book, which recounts an actual event in 1854, is perhaps best used with the older picture book crowd, who may have acquired some scientific knowledge of tsunamis. Paired with the scientific rationality and historical fantasy of Mary Pope Osborne's High Tide in Hawaii (Magic Tree House 28) and its companion guide, Magic Tree House Research Guide #15: Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters: A Nonfiction Companion to High Tide in Hawaii (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)), this book makes a fine introduction to the study of earthquakes and tsunamis.

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  • Thanks, GTC! I love your review of my book, Tsunami! The gift of your kindness and support mean a lot to me.

    Kimiko :-)

    By Blogger Kimiko, at 7:40 AM  

  • Thank you, Kimiko, for your kind words for this fine piece of work. I appreciate the work that authors and artists do for readers, librarians, AND reviewers!

    This is an exceptionally fine book! You and Ed Young should be very proud of this one.

    By Blogger GTC, at 7:54 AM  

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