Kimiko Kajikawa and Ed Young's Tsunami!
I hadn't heard of this book by Young nor of Kajikawa's work in general. Young, along with Allen Say (whose works were reviewed in this community earlier by stephenhongsohn and me), was an Asian American children's book author and illustrator whose work made me want to be a children's book author and illustrator back when I had aspirations to be a writer and visual artist (see also my review of Young's illustrated memoir).
Tsunami! is the story of a Japanese man who saved all the people in his village from drowning in a tsunami. During a festival, the villagers celebrate on the beach and feel an earthquake. Once the trembling passes, they continue with the festivities, even as they soon notice that the water pulls away from the shore, revealing the ocean bottom for a long distance.
An older man and his grandson remain higher up on the mountain with his expansive rice fields and sees all of the villagers below as well as what the ocean is doing. He understands immediately what is coming next and calls out to his grandson to help him.
He tells his grandson to set fire to the rice. Though the grandson does not understand why, he does as he is told. In order to get the villagers' attention fully, the grandfather ends up setting ablaze all of his fields. The villagers race up the mountaintop to help put out the fires and to find out what has happened.
Luckily, of course, the grandfather's drastic action has drawn the attention of every single person. Once they are all assembled high up in the fields, he explains to them what is coming, and together, they watch as the sky changes and the tsunami comes roaring back to shore, inundating all the festivities and the village itself.
Apparently, this story is based on a historical figure from the mid-1800s who saved his fellow villagers with his sacrifice.
I truly love Young's art in this book. My favorite style of his is this cut paper collage. Unlike other cut paper art that tends to work with solid colored paper, Young's version uses highly textured papers which give the image a complex and dynamic feel.
I really liked Kajikawa's storytelling, too. It masterfully creates suspense for the reader (sorry for the spoilers, but really, you have to read the story yourself at it is written for the full effect). I'm definitely curious to read more of Kajikawa's work. A brief glance at her web site reveals that Kajikawa also has published under another name (her legal name?) for her earlier books--Evelyn Clarke Mott. It looks like she wrote the text for those children's books and took photographs to illustrate them, often conducting research on the topics (such as a book on Pueblo Indians). And her bio mentions that she was not always comfortable with her mixed race identity, often wishing when she was a child that she were more like her all-white classmates (her mother was a Japanese woman who married a white American man after WWII). This turn to telling stories about and from Japan in her children's book, then, is a way for her to create childhood story worlds that help celebrate a racial identity and cultural heritage that she found underrepresented for her own childhood.
Oh, and because I love it when authors pose with their dogs, here's one of Kajikawa and her basset hound from her web site: