Monday, November 18, 2013

Kenta and The Big Wave - a book review

Quote of the Day:  "The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business."
                                                  ~John Steinbeck

You do not have to look too far around our world to find destruction and devastation caused by a tsunami, a typhoon, a hurricane or a tornado.  These natural disasters cause such pain and sorrow as people's homes are destroyed, families and communities are uprooted and then evacuated to shelters, and lives of thousands are literally turned upside down in the aftermath.  The book I am highlighting today was written after the huge tsunami that ravaged Japan a few years ago.  Currently, all the eyes of the world are focused on the Philippines, where the largest typhoon ever recorded, Haiyan, has caused tragic consequences to the islands there.  The images that are coming out of that area are shocking and unbelievable.  I urge you if you haven't donated to their plight to please do so.

Title:   Kenta and The Big Wave
Author/Illustrator:  Ruth Ohi

Kenta is a young boy who lives in Japan and his greatest passion is playing soccer with his friends.  One day he hears the warning siren blasting, alerting the people to seek immediate shelter because they are in danger.  He joins his community as they move to higher ground, to a location where his school is situated, so they can be safe and protected from the terrifying tsunami that is overtaking them.  As they quickly climb higher and higher Kenta trips and sadly lets go of his soccer ball which rolls away from him and into the water - lost forever - or so he thinks.

Ohi does a fantastic job of describing the backwash of such an horrific event.  Everyone is corralled in the school gymnasium, where for now,  they are protected from the out-of-control elements and are seemingly safe.  The unstable, raging ocean picks up Kenta's soccer ball and transports it to the other side of the world where another little boy, about Kenta's age, finds it, retrieves it and discovers a way to miraculously get that coveted ball back to its original owner despite the state of hopelessness from where it originated.

The colourful, watercolour illustrations  are beautifully displayed and gives the reader a visual of just what a tsunami can look like and how it can  brutally change the landscape of a country.  Ohi manages to bring Kenta a message of hope out of all this chaos and sadness. She provides an opportunity for a little boy who has lost all his worldly possessions to be able to smile once again and say thank you to a complete stranger who had it in his heart to perform a random act of kindness.  It is a bittersweet story that young boys especially will be able to relate to and enjoy reading.  Highly recommended.

About the author/illustrator:

I am the illustrator of  57 children’s picture books(16 of which I am also the author). I have had the great pleasure of illustrating for authors such asJoy KogawaHazel Hutchins and Sharon Jennings.  I live with my family in Toronto, Canada.   I am a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design.
My books have been selected for the Pennsylvania Centre for the Book's “Baker’s Dozen”, the Canadian Toy Testing Council's "Great Books", the Ontario Library Association's "Best Bets", and the Toronto Public Library's "First & Best".  They  have been shortlisted for awards such as the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book, Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbons , Mr. Christie, and Blue Spruce. 
In 2011-2012 I was Writer-in-Residence for the Toronto District School Board and in 2013 instructor for Toronto Public Library's, "Create the Next Great Picture Book", a four week workshop for ages 8-12.  Many of my books I have illustrated have been translated into different languages.  For example,"And You Can Come Too", and "Clara and the Bossy", have  been translated into Korean.

Book Review rating:  8 (Fantastic!)

Read on and read always!  Please keep the Philippines in your thoughts and prayers this week and please donate if you are able.  

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