Kenta and the Big Wave

Kenta and the Big Wave

4.0 1
by Ruth Ohi

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The tsunami has swept everything away—including Kenta’s most prized possession, his soccer ball. When tragedy strikes Kenta’s small village in Japan, he does all he can to hang on to the things that matter to him most. But amidst the chaos of an emergency evacuation brought on by the tsunami, Kenta and his family must quickly leave their home,


The tsunami has swept everything away—including Kenta’s most prized possession, his soccer ball. When tragedy strikes Kenta’s small village in Japan, he does all he can to hang on to the things that matter to him most. But amidst the chaos of an emergency evacuation brought on by the tsunami, Kenta and his family must quickly leave their home, taking with them only the barest necessities. Climbing to safer ground, Kenta watches helplessly as his prized soccer ball goes bouncing down a hill and gets swept away by the waves, never to be seen again… that is until it washes up on a beach on the other side of the world, into the hands of a child who takes it upon himself to return the ball to its rightful owner. In this evocative picture book, Ruth Ohi’s glowing art transports the reader to Japan with gentle images that offer reassurance amidst the background of an environmental catastrophe. Inspired by true stories of personal items being washed ashore thousands of miles away after the tsunami of 2011, Kenta and the Big Wave is about the strength of the human spirit and the power of Mother Nature. Including an afterword explaining tsunamis to young readers.

Editorial Reviews

BookDragon - Terry Hong
The more important message of connection and caring--a young man carrying an elderly woman on his back as the wind gains greater force, survivors huddling to comfort one another in the colossal wreckage, children somehow finding the ability to laugh and play even in tragedy--rings loudly throughout Ohi's soft, gentle illustrations on every page.
Pirate Tree - Peter Marino
The story of this simple act of goodness is told as a storyteller might relate it, simple language with big themes.
CanLit for Little Canadians
I know that Kenta and The Big Wave will touch many readers, though I suspect there will be many a teacher who will recognize the multitude of teachable moments in the book: perspective, compassion, loss, grief, generosity and tsunamis. Here is a story that explains, with kindness, that which seems almost inexplicable.
CM Magazine - Karyn Miehl
The determination of the people in Kenta's village to hold on to hope is a good message for young readers as are the boy's selflessness in returning Kenta's ball and Kenta's gratitude at being reunited with his soccer ball.
Waking Brain Cells - Tasha Saecker
Ohi has written a very simple but compelling look at surviving a natural disaster.
Resource Links - Laura Reilly
Beautifully written and illustrated.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In Japan, young Kenta has practiced what to do when the siren wails. He runs far up the hill to school where the waves cannot reach. On the way, he trips and his soccer ball rolls away down into the ocean. When the tsunami is over and the sea subsides, Kenta and his family find their house destroyed and everything gone. They must eat and sleep in the school gym. Kenta makes a soccer ball from scraps as the family tries to rebuild. Out in the ocean, Kenta's ball is tossed around and finally discovered on a beach by another boy. He finds someone to read Kenta's writing so he can ship the ball back to Kenta. Kenta is grateful to have something left from the tragedy. Ohi's naturalistic illustrations are modest in size and emotional content. Double pages are used for scenes of action like the incoming waves, while single pages and vignettes adequately visualize Kenta's life. A note adds information about the disastrous 2011 tsunami in Japan and the fact that objects like the soccer ball were washed ashore across the world. The simply told story can introduce the facts about the tsunami in a way youngsters can understand. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—Inspired by an actual news story after Japan's record-breaking 2011 tsunami, this simple story recounts a boy's loss when a wave strikes his small coastal village. Hearing the warning siren, Kenta flees up the hill to the school with the other village residents, but he trips and his prized soccer ball rolls away into the giant wave. After the tsunami's retreat, Kenta's family discovers that they have lost everything and must live in the school gym while they rebuild. Meanwhile, Kenta's soccer ball is "plunged and pulled, tossed and tumbled" across the ocean, where it washes up on a beach and is discovered by an American boy. Enlisting the help of a librarian to translate the unfamiliar Japanese characters on it and trace its owner, the child mails the ball back to Kenta, who happily receives it. Spare language and full-color watercolor illustrations that flesh out the narrative make this a multilayered introduction to Japan, the concept of a tsunami, and the cross-cultural commonality of soccer for children. Pair this title with Kimiko Kajikawa and Ed Young's Tsunami! (Philomel, 2009) or David Wiesner's Flotsam (Clarion, 2006) to drive home the magnitude of a tsunami and ocean waves. A brief author's note about these powerful forces of nature is appended.—Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-15
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)

Product Details

Annick Press, Limited
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
7.60(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.30(d)
AD560L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 5 Years

Meet the Author

Ruth Ohi is an author, and the illustrator of more than 20 books for children including her bestselling Chicken, Pig, Cow series. She is a tireless presenter at schools and libraries, where she shares secrets of her trade with children. Ruth lives with her family in Toronto, Ontario. Check out Ruth's website at

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Kenta and the Big Wave 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
book4children More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting look at natural disasters and the way it affects people. The story talks about Kenta and his family after a tsunami hits their little village. They must eat and sleep in the school gym while they work to rebuild their home. The illustrations also add to the mood and feel of the book. The journey that Kenta's soccer ball goes on is quite amazing. It gets swept up by the ocean and makes it all the way to another shore where a little boy finds it and mails it back to Kenta. I love this idea, that something like a soccer ball could gets lost, supposedly forever, only to be found and returned to its owner.