Book Review: Kenta and the Big Wave

16 Sep

Today’s book review is for Kenta and the Big Wave, written and illustrated by Ruth Ohi, published by Annick Press Ltd. I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The story starts with a warning siren, alerting the people of Kenta’s town to an approaching tsunami. While he is running to higher ground to take shelter, he loses his prized soccer ball. And so we are pulled into this thoughtful book by writer-illustrator Ruth Ohi. She weaves a tale of catastrophe and hope through the perspective of a young Japanese boy.

Ohi’s prose flows smoothly, demonstrating great skill. She sometimes repeats words and phrases to emphasize ideas, but manages to do so without sounding redundant. The text reads aloud beautifully, making this a possible selection for story time. Word choices are familiar and there is never excess description nor exposition. It keeps the focus on the story.

The text is complemented by Ohi’s soft watercolor illustrations. She uses small details to establish character and location: Japanese writing on the soccer ball, bamboo flooring, people eating with chopsticks in the background, etc. But the details are small enough that young people won’t be distracted from the more universal story.

The book has a nice design. There are so two page spreads, some full page illustrations faced with a smaller illustration, and some places where two full page illustrations face each other. This approach helps to create a sense of pacing and movement within the book. The clean and readable sans serif font was well chosen. Placement of text within the page was thoughtful and well-executed. The inclusion of the author’s note at the end opens up possibilities for extension activities with children and provides them with the specific event that inspired the author.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed it. It was moving, without being overtly sentimental. It provides a chance to talk with children about natural disasters and about Japan. I would encourage others to read it and highly recommend it for addition to any local or school library.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Kenta and the Big Wave”

  1. MamaCheshire September 17, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    This looks great! I’ve gone and looked up the author and think that in general I will enjoy her. Some of the picture books I’m reading with SecondKid right now have main characters of color but were written by white authors (Corduroy, The Snowy Day, etc.), and I was actually just about to ask you for recommendations of books actually written by authors of color. Looks like you had one waiting for me! 🙂

    • D. September 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      I’m definitely hoping I’ll have the chance to review more books written by authors of color. It’s important to introduce children to a multitude of experiences–and a multitude of voices.

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