Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Big Wave

A quick detour from my reading list: a childhood favorite.  
The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck is one of those books that my parents had somehow obtained two copies of and I read it at a very young age. It's only about 80 pages long, and an easy reading level, which means that I read it numerous times when I was a child.

If memory serves me correctly, I read it at least a dozen, if not twenty, times.
When I thought about it recently, I asked if Mom could send me one of the copies that my family had.
She did so and I finally got around to reading it again.
I decided I would review it along with the rest of the books I have been reading.
(The book shown here is not the edition I have.)


Kino and Jiya are young friends that live in Japan. Kino lives up on the mountainside with his family and they farm; Jiya lives on the beach in a tiny fishing village. When they are not working with their fathers, they can usually be found swimming in the ocean. Jiya is afraid of the ocean, because at any moment it can grow angry; at first, Kino doesn't understand his friend's fear. For the most part, the ocean stays calm. But when the nearby volcano begins to smoke and the land begins to shake, the ocean too grows angry.
The Old Gentleman who lives in a castle on the mountainside raises a flag and rings a bell to tell the people in the fishing village that they should come take refuge in his home. Some of them send their children, some go themselves. Most stay behind. Kino and his father are watching, and Kino becomes afraid for his friend Jiya. He waves down the hill to Jiya, who is sent up to the castle by his family but sees Kino and goes there instead.
Then they see the big wave. It crashes over the beach, taking the entire fishing village and its residents with it out to sea. And then all is over. Jiya is alone, though he is with Kino and his father.


The rest of the story is about Jiya and Kino learning how to live in the face of death (the volcano and the ocean) and learning that one cannot live in constant fear. Kino's father is always telling his son that Jiya will learn to remember his family with joy and that he will again live.

Like I said, it's not a long story, but it is a good one. Pearl Buck writes in a simple, easy to understand style. Actually, I really like how she wrote this book because it reads as if someone were telling it, like a bard or a storyteller. The word choices and certain stylistic choices make it a good reading experience, even though it's for kids.


Because I've read this book so many times over, and because it has some good lessons in it, I give it five stars. I'm not sure how many people will like it in the same way that I do, but if you can get your hands on a copy, give it a try. It won't take long and I hope you won't be disappointed.

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