Thursday, July 16, 2015

Learning from Picture Books - Kenta and the Big Wave

This book was on the list of nominees for the Blue Spruce Award from the Ontario Library Association this year, but I was absent the day the librarian read it with my class. I'm sorry I missed all the interesting discussion that undoubtedly took place! I'm so glad I can share it here, because it would be a wonderful addition to any classroom or school library. 

Here’s the summary from Amazon:
Ruth Ohi

When tragedy strikes Kenta's small village in Japan, he does all he can to hang on to the things that matter to him most. But amidst the chaos of an emergency evacuation brought on by the tsunami, Kenta and his family must quickly leave their home. Climbing to safer ground, Kenta watches helplessly as his prized soccer ball goes bouncing down a hill and gets swept away by the waves, never to be seen again... that is until it washes up on a beach on the other side of the world, into the hands of a child who takes it upon himself to return the ball to its rightful owner.

In this evocative picture book, Ruth Ohi's glowing art transports the reader to Japan with gentle images that offer reassurance amidst the background of an environmental catastrophe. Inspired by true stories of personal items being washed ashore thousands of miles away after the tsunami of 2011, Kenta and The Big Wave is about the strength of the human spirit and the power of Mother Nature. An afterword explains tsunamis to young readers.

Kenta and the Big Wave was written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi, published by Annick Press, 2015.

My thoughts as a writer:

The opening line drew me in: “When Kenta heard the warning siren, he ran to school.” The text has a lovely, poetic rhythm that fits with the serious mood of the story. I really liked the subtle way this story showed how people triumph by making do as best they can. It shows children that even though the world is much bigger than they can imagine, they can make a difference to another person.

My thoughts as a teacher:

This would be a thought-provoking story to read and discuss with students or your child. It could be used to start a discussion on many different topics:
-  tsunamis and geological-related events
-  what life is like in Japan or other cultures
- what other things might be floating in the ocean (and the environment).
-  ways to be kind

Themes: tsunamis, kindness, global awareness

Ages: 4 – 7

Grades: preschool - 2

Follow-Up Activities:

Visit Ruth Ohi's website to try a message writing activity. 

Make a list of other things that might be washed away during a tsunami. Think about what you might be able to do to help.

Draw or write about something important to you that you would miss if you lost it.


  1. I don't read picture books anymore, but this sounds really good.

  2. I just suggested this for my library to buy.
    They do a few other picture books from the same author so I will be checking them out while I wait on this one.
    Thank you for the feature!

  3. I'm so happy you liked Kenta, Andrea! Thank you for this lovely review. Best, Ruth


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