This week-end marks one year on from the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. As the efforts continue to rebuild homes, schools – whole towns and their infrastructure, rebuilding lives without loved ones, friends, colleagues will take longer. The IBBY Children in Crisis Fund was one of the many organisations that responded to the crisis, delivering books and Bibliotherapy raining, and stories will continue to play their part in the healing process.
The impact of natural disasters can be hard to grasp for grown-ups let alone children, and reading sories together is one way of facilitating discussion. Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa and stunningly illustrated by Ed Young (Philomel Books, 2009) is a good story to read together to talk with young children about what happened in Japan. It is based on the true story of Hamaguchi Goryou (1820-1885), as related by writer Lafcadio Hearn in “A Living God“, one of the stories in his book Gleanings in Buddha-Fields.
A wealthy landowner is so loved and respected by the people from the nearby village, that they call him Ojiisan, Grandfather. One day, during the celebrations of the rice harvest, he is the only person who recognises that a tsunami is about to hit and realises that it is up to him to save everybody. His grandson thinks he has gone mad when his grandfather sets the rice fields alight, but he has a special reason…
In this beautiful retelling by Kimiko Kajikawa, readers are very aware of the dangers involved but have the reassurance of a happy ending. Ed Young’s powerful collages convey the power of nature and the many different emotions each stage of the story evokes. And for older readers, Kimiko has excellent resouces and ideas on her website.