Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tsunami! Written by Kimiko Kajikawa and illustrated by Ed Young. Philomel, Penguin Group (Canada), 2009. $18.50 ages 6 and up
"Long ago in Japan, there was a wise old rice farmer who lived near the sea. The people in the village called him Ojiisan, which means "grandfather". Even though Ojiisan was the wealthiest person in the village, he lived a simple life."
The respect that the villagers have for Ojiisan is evident in the number of long uphill treks they make to seek his wise advice. When the rice harvest is to be celebrated he does not want to go; he has a feeling that all is not as it should be. He and his grandson, Tada, stay home. As they watch the villagers, Ojiisan feels a tremor in the earth beneath his feet. When it passes, he remains unsettled...it does not feel like others he has experienced. As he watches the sea, it begins to move out from the land and Ojiisan knows what that means. He has learned about the monster wave at his grandfather's knee. A tsunami!
He knows that they must warn the villagers who are celebrating in high style on the beach. He purposely sets fire to his rice fields. The fire is spotted and the celebrants run from the edge of the sea to help douse the horrible inferno. His ploy works...the villagers are safe above the sandy beach where the tsunami is about to wield its power. As the wave crashes onto land they watch in horror as their entire village disappears. Thankfully, all the villagers are safe with Ojiisan and Tada. As they rebuild their village and their lives, they never forget Ojiisan's actions and sacrifice.
The illustrations are mixed media collage and reminiscent of much of Ed Young's earlier artwork. He helps to tell this powerful story with action and drama in the pieces he creates. I particularly like the bird's eye view of the village after the tsunami has crashed ashore. There is so much destruction and chaos in the elements shown. The quiet peace of the night sky assures the reader that the storm has passed and all will be right at some point.
With the Haitian earthquake so much on our minds, it has led students and their teachers to discuss other disasters of the near past, including the Asian tsunami five years ago and the hurricane in New Orleans. They are stories that remain with us as we move forward, and remind us of the earth's infinite power.