In this testament to resiliency and kindness during natural disasters, the Japanese boy Kenta’s soccer ball is swept away by a tsunami and eventually returned by a child living across the Pacific Ocean.
The opening double-page spread depicts an aerial view of lower-elevation homes being swallowed by waves; the ending spread, Kenta’s reunion with his soccer ball while nearby, construction workers re-build his town. From beginning to end, author/illustrator Ohi manages an admirable balancing act. Young children are exposed to the realities of loss and damage while also viewing such things as children at play in the emergency shelter at the school gym and dolphins frolicking in the same waves that have carried people’s belongings far away from their homes. Clever but accessible wording abounds, as in “The school gym was crowded with people looking for what they’d lost. Kenta found his mother and father. The ocean found Kenta’s soccer ball.” The watercolor-and-pencil illustrations are roughly hewn, but they include such careful details as English-language signs along the shoreline when the ball reaches North America. Muted colors work well with the sparse, poetic text to create an appropriate gentleness. The placement of words and pictures—and the clever device of pale banners for text over darker backgrounds—ensure easy use as a read-aloud to a group of young children.
An eminently child-friendly treatment of the devastation that follows disaster. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-7)