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The Big Wave Paperback – April 18, 1986

73 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Pearl S. Buck is the author of many distinguished books for children and adults. She won the Child Study Association's Children's Book Award for The Big Wave, the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Good Earth, and in 1938 received the Nobel Prize for literature.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (April 18, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064401715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0064401715
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.2 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Her parents were Southern Presbyterian missionaries, most often stationed in China, and from childhood, Pearl spoke both English and Chinese. She returned to China shortly after graduation from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1914, and the following year, she met a young agricultural economist named John Lossing Buck. They married in 1917, and immediately moved to Nanhsuchou in rural Anhwei province. In this impoverished community, Pearl Buck gathered the material that she would later use in The Good Earth and other stories of China.
Pearl began to publish stories and essays in the 1920s, in magazines such as The Nation, The Chinese Recorder, Asia, and The Atlantic Monthly. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published by the John Day Company in 1930. John Day's publisher, Richard Walsh, would eventually become Pearl's second husband, in 1935, after both received divorces.

In 1931, John Day published Pearl's second novel, The Good Earth. This became the bestselling book of both 1931 and 1932, won the Pulitzer Prize and the Howells Medal in 1935, and would be adapted as a major MGM film in 1937. Other novels and books of nonfiction quickly followed. In 1938, less than a decade after her first book had appeared, Pearl won the Nobel Prize in literature, the first American woman to do so. By the time of her death in 1973, Pearl had published more than seventy books: novels, collections of stories, biography and autobiography, poetry, drama, children's literature, and translations from the Chinese. She is buried at Green Hills Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 74 people found the following review helpful By sally mandy on January 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
I bought this book at a yard sale for twenty five cents. I read it to my six year old daughter and it was her favorite bedtime book for several months. It was a joy for me to discover how much I loved it, too.
The themes are "mature," in that a boy watches his entire family die and then his friend watches him grieve this loss. My six year old was not too young for this, however; to her, death is as natural as the sun coming up unless I make a big deal about it. Pearl Buck presents a deep reverence for life, death, and living with danger and uncertainty that permeate the story in an accessible and real way. The end message is hopeful and joyous.
I found in this book something rare in children's and even much contemporary adult fiction: a nonthreatening, sensitive portrayal of how people deal physically and emotionally with overwhelming loss; it's sort of like Elizabeth Kubler Ross 101 for a child's understanding. How unusual, and valuable.
Kathleen Norris wrote in The Cloister Walk that for many years literature gave her what religion gives some people in the way of guidance and comfort in life's challenges. It seems to me the pinnacle of good literature to show commonalities between people of all ages, all over the world and through history, suggesting values people from other cultures and times have used to deal with universal human dramas. For me, The Big Wave does that.
I hope I'm not the only parent who thinks kids deserve books with more substance than Junie B. Jones and Captain Underpants offer. Pearl Buck obviously respected children and their capacity to understand. Add to that its lovely clear language and stunning imagery of the setting...well, all told this is maybe my favorite kid's book, even if it only cost a quarter.
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 25, 2002
Format: Library Binding
First of all, I am disgusted at the ignorance of some of the other reviewers thus far. I am not Japanese, and cannot attest to whether or not Jiya and Kino are "ridiculous" names, but to assume that Pearl S. Buck needed to do "a little more research" about Japan is equally ridiculous. Pearl S. Buck was born in 1892. She lived and wrote in China and Japan in the early years of her career. I believe she lived in Unzen, Japan for an entire year in 1927. So if those names are ridiculous for little boys now, perhaps they were not so THEN, when the book was written, and in the particular area where Buck lived. I don't know.
I found this book to be valuable for introducing youngsters to the tremendous and powerful body of work produced by the first American woman to ever win the Nobel Prize for literature, Pearl S. Buck. Her writing is deliberately slow and written in the classic style of fables to serve a purpose and set the tone and mood. Young readers who are not properly introduced to the historical context and significance of Ms. Buck's work may find her writing and this book to be "blah blah blah." This is unfortunate. Children coping with loss and trauma, and children interested in both Japanese culture and earth science (volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis, which literally translates to "big wave," for those who seem to be confused) would love this book. It is a useful book for teachers to introduce difficult material to youngsters as well. My only complaint is that this edition did a poor job of duplicating the masterpieces of Japanese printmasters Hokusai and Hiroshige, both of whom were major influences on the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh. The replicas in this book fail to do the originals justice.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By kuaikuai on January 5, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book many years ago, and have been waiting for the right moment to read it to my child. This week, while we are absorbing the 12/26/2004 tsunami in South Asia, I deemed the moment right.

The story is set in Japan at some time in the past, when the farmers and fishermen in the community are following the paths their fathers and grandfathers set. We see the story through the eyes of Kino who lives on a mountain farm, and learns about the sea through his friendship with Jiya, who lives "in the last house in the row of houses toward the ocean, and [whose] house [does] not have a window toward the sea" because, as Jiya tells Kino, "the sea is our enemy." Kino is relieved that he does not live near the sea, but his father reminds him of the great volcano, twenty miles away, and tells him that they "must learn to live with danger."

The storyline is simple, almost inevitable. A volcano erupts under the sea and causes a tsunami, which sweeps away the fishing village by the sea. Many lives are lost. As the survivors slowly recover, and Kino's friend Jiya starts to accept life again, Kino asks his father all the questions that children need to ask after a natural disaster. His father's answers each question with patience and wisdom, in a manner open-ended enough so that the reader (or reader and parent) can pause and talk about their own beliefs and feelings. Or the reader can turn the page and stay absorbed in this well-crafted story.

My only disappointment with my paperback edition (HarperCollins, 1986, ISBN 0-06-440171-5) is that it left out the famous woodblock prints by the 19th century Japanese artists Hokusai and Hiroshige. I pored over these illustrations as a child and immediately recognized them when I saw them in my library copy.
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