Tsunami by Kimiko Kajikawa with art by Ed Young

TsunamiI was really astounded when I opened this book. I have to admit that with Tsunami! I was drawn by the cover art. A huge wave is roaring across the front with bits of buildings being pulled into the undertow. The title, Tsunami! in bright oranges and reds with ragged, torn edges rushes across the bottom. There is a sense of immediacy and urgency. I felt compelled to open the book and learn more.

Surprisingly, I found I was reading a Japanese folktale.

Once again though, the layout of the book as well as the story kept me intrigued. The artwork, paper collage, dominates every double page spread with action, color and wild movement. The text, white print on a black background is kept below a red line at the bottom inch and a half of the page. In juxtaposition to the art, the pace of the text is very deliberate, quietly building suspense. Even at the height of the action, with imminent doom threatening his village, the old man, the main character, whispers “Tsunami—the monster wave.” Yet the text sustains the art—or is it vice versa?—as the action continues to mount with each new scene until, with no text on the page at all, the reader is faced with the tsunami, an enormous mountain of turbulent water about to engulf the village. The tension/quietude is unnerving. Despite the sense of danger, I had to go forward. This is a story to read and experience. As I closed the book, I could only think, “Wow…”

As with most folktales, all’s well in the end. The old man has lost his crop but further enhanced his esteem among the villagers. The village has been swept away. But everyone is safe and despite the loss, the town will be built again. And in the mode of a story well told, Tsunami! Is a book that both children and adults will want to read, to pour over, again and again.

Posted by: Eileen

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