September 17, 2013

Kenta and The Big Wave

Written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi
Annick Press
978-1-55451-576-9
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
July, 2013 

Most Canadian young readers will recognize Ruth Ohi's distinct style of illustration which blends softness with gravity and whimsy. (I know, how is that possible?) Check out Hazel Hutchins' Nicholas at the Library (Annick Press, 1990) and The Sidewalk Rescue (Annick Press, 2004) and Joy Kogawa's Naomi's Tree (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2010) and Naomi's Road (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005) to see how Ruth Ohi has taken others' text and magnified it into astounding stories.  With her own books, including Chicken, Pig, Cow (Annick Press, 2008) series, Clara and the Bossy (Annick Press, 2006) and Me and My Sister (Annick Press, 2005), Ruth Ohi has found the means to share compassionate stories that teach about getting along with others. While focusing on a historical event, Ruth Ohi brings these same virtues to her newest Kenta and The Big Wave.

Based on the tsunami that hit the coast of Japan in 2011, Kenta and his family are part of the population that responds to the sirens and evacuates to higher ground and the shelter of the school gym.  With each step of Kenta's family's journey to safety and in dealing with the aftermath of the devastation, Kenta's beloved soccer ball travels across the turbulent ocean.

While Kenta and The Big Wave may seem a simple story with a happy ending with regards to a boy's lost soccer ball, it has far greater depth in its story-telling and illustrations.  Ruth Ohi ensures that the reader understands the breadth of the tsunami's destruction and the effects on Kenta's community first and foremost. The overwhelming waves on double-page spreads fully engulfing the soccer ball are reminder enough.  But, although she never trivializes the context of Kenta's soccer ball story, she tenderly demonstrates how important that ball is to him. 

I know that Kenta and The Big Wave will touch many readers, though I suspect there will be many a teacher who will recognize the multitude of teachable moments in the book: perspective, compassion, loss, grief, generosity and tsunamis.  Here is a story that explains, with kindness, that which seems almost inexplicable.

1 comment:

Darlene said...

To think I almost missed this one. I love the idea of thsi book and the illustrator is amazing. Thanks for bringing it my attention. Will share.