CAN, JP, US, INT)
Written and Illustrated by: Ruth Ohi
Published by: Annick Press
Published on: July 30, 2013
Provided by the publisher for review through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
The images of huge waves overtaking homes, speeding cars, an entire coastline in March of 2011 cannot be erased from the minds of anyone who saw them in real life or on tv. Young children are even now still processing these images.
Too many things were lost that day, so it may seem that one small ball might not make a difference, when compared to homes, family photos, or other treasures. But I know how attached my son is to his soccer ball, and can only imagine how sad it was for the people of Tohoku to lose each of their treasured posessions.
In Ohi's latest picture book, she introduces us to Kenta, a boy who loses his home and his ball. The home is rebuilt, but his ball is washed out to sea. My kids loved the idea of dolphins guiding this beloved toy across the miles.
After the 3.11 disaster, the word on everyone's lips here in Japan was "kizuna" (絆) which means the ties that bind. This ball provides one such link between a boy in Japan and another on the west coast of North America. This book provides another connection between the generous spirit that is the author and all of the readers.
The illustrations in Kenta are gorgeous. Ohi doesn't shy away from the realities of the hard situation, such as waves sweeeping away homes or children and the elderly living in school gyms, nor even the post-tsunami destruction. As such it might be hard for more sensitive readers. But she tackles these realities with respect and authenticity, and provides a happy ending for children who may still be dealing with the images years later.
Another amazing facet of the book is the parallels it draws between two boys and their lives on two different continents, brought together by a ball and a wise librarian. Comparisons between the shops in their towns, the fields that surround them, and even the mail service, are great for showing kids the similarities and differences between these two areas.
My kids love Ohi's Chicken, Pig, Cow series, which is humourous but also has a similar theme of friendship. It's a testament to Ohi's talent that she is able to do funny and also serious, but keep both on a perfect level for young children to understand.
This is a powerful book, with a meaningful message about how the ties between people. But it is also an emotional book. Tears were shed everytime I read this book. It's up there with Robert Munsch's Love You Forever in its ability to affect hearts. This is my favourite picture book of 2013, and I wish I had a way to ensure it was translated into Japanese and made its way into every school library in Japan. I hope it moves your heart too.