Thursday, September 19, 2013

I Survived #8: The Japanese Tsunami, 2011


I Survived #8: I Survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011
by Lauren Tarshis
illustrated by Scott Dawson
Scholastic, 2013
review copy provided by the publisher

A couple of weeks ago, this "Shocking New Video" of the 2011 Japanese tsunami was shared on FaceBook. I clicked over and watched all 25+minutes of it. It was one thing to have seen the quick clip that became iconic in the days after the tsunami -- the one of the monster wave crashing into the coast -- but to watch, with the person behind the camera, 25 minutes of gradual, and then terrifyingly sudden rising waters that completely obliterated the landscape, was quite another.

It was with those images in my mind that I read Lauren Tarshis' newest installment in the I Survived series. (I'm embarrassed to admit that this is the first book in this series that I've read. Somehow, this series escaped my radar until last year. I got several for my classroom library, and then they were never back on the shelves!)

Tarshis gives a kid reader just enough of the terrifying experience of the tsunami to understand the suddenness, feel the separation from loved ones, and know the shock of whole towns being leveled. But her character is an American child, visiting in Japan, so he gets to leave the destruction behind, in much the same way the world has. (There are no "Shocking New Video"s of the rebuilding efforts that are still, I'm sure, going on.) I do not mean this as a criticism. Tarshis writes, in the information following the story, about how hard it was for her to try to understand the enormity of the disaster. And she does show readers a Japanese character who chooses not to leave, and teaches us, in the information after the story, about gaman, a word in Japanese which means "to be strong and patient even when something terrible is happening."

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