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The Big Wave Paperback – April 18, 1986
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Would recommend this book for grammar schools 5-6 grades because, of the nature of loss after a flood.Published 13 days ago by Tinker/Tester
This story gives a quick but deep look into the Japanese mindset regarding life and death. A great quick read for anyone interested in Japan.Published 17 days ago by Heather philpot
such a good book with life lessons and a bit of art. great book for dealing with the death of someone, I would think. but also for positive attitudes towards life and fears. Read morePublished 8 months ago by shopper8424
The Big Wave is a jewel in children's literature. As many other reviewers have stated, this story gently deals with death and loss. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Mossflower
A book by Pearl is always interesting. This one is short and somewhat predictable but it is great writing with insight on life in old China by an author with authority on the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
Although a short read, this book did not disappoint except in ending quickly and abruptly. I would have enjoyed a longer continuation of the story line which left many questions... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Jane