Kimiko Kajikawa, Children's Book AuthorKimiko Kajikawa, Children's Book Author
Kimiko Kajikawa, Children's Book Author


by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young

Philomel Books, 2009
Ages 4-10
ISBN 0-3992-5006-9




2009 Parents' Choice Awards: Silver Honor Winner
2009 Junior Library Guild Selection
2010 Notable Children's Book: Middle Readers: American Library Association (ALA) and the ALSC
2010 Booklist: Best Middle Readers List
2010 National Council for the Social Studies: Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
2009 Aesop Accolade: American Folklore Society
2009 New York Public Library: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
2011 Children's Choice Award Nominee: Illinois School Library Media Association: Monarch Award
2009 Maine's Chickadee Award Nominee
2010 Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List
2010 Pennsylvania: Keystone to Reading Book Award Nominee
2011 Utah Beehive Award Nominee
2010 Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices: University of Wisconsin School of Education
2009 Capitol Choices — Noteworthy Books for Children
2009 Best Illustrated Children's Book: About.Com Children's Books Guide
  Starred Reviews:  Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, and School Library Journal


Tsunami is illustrated by Ed Young, winner of the 1990 Caldecott Medal.  It tells the story of an old farmer in Japan who saves an entire village from destruction by a tsunami. Kimiko adapted this tale from a story in Lafcadio Hearn's Gleanings in Buddha-Fields (Houghton Mifflin 1897).

The character of Ojiisan is based on a real person, Hamaguchi Goryou, who guided his villagers to safety by lighting rice-straw fires. To learn more about this great man, visit the website of the Japanese museum dedicated to him:


When I found this tale in the basement of my local library, I was overcome with emotion.  It is a beautiful story about how an old farmer sacrifices all his riches in order to save his entire village from a tsunami.  During the several months it took me to adapt this tale, I clearly visualized in my mind the text accompanied by Ed Young's illustrations (winner of the 1990 Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po).

When I completed the manuscript, I immediately sent the story over to Ed Young.  Even though I knew that it is the children's book editor's job to pair the author with an illustrator, I felt  strongly about Ed doing the art for Tsunami.  It wasn't long before I received a postcard from Ed saying that he was backlogged with work and was not interested in illustrating my story.  I was disappointed but grateful to hear from him.

Believe it or not, TEN YEARS LATER, I received an e-mail from Patti Gauch at Philomel Books asking if I would be interested in having Ed Young illustrate my story!  I couldn't believe it.  Apparently, Ed held onto Tsunami for all those years while the story visually came to life for him.


"I loved the manuscript of Tsunami! when I first read it — more than a decade ago when the author sent it to me to illustrate.

Unfortunately, publishers were not interested.  Then, because of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Christmas Day Tsunami, interest changed.  But no one could find the author!  Thanks to the internet, she was found, married and with a new name: Kimiko Kajikawa.  Finally Tsunami! is meeting the public she had intended many years ago."

Click here for more on illustrator Ed Young.




  "A visually powerful and dramatic tribute to one man's willingness to sacrifice everything for others."

— Kirkus, starred review

  "An earthquake, a fire, a tidal wave and selfless heroism, all packed into 32 pages, guarantee that this story will hold the attention of even the most restless listeners...Kajikawa's portrait of an old man who acts unhesitatingly against his own interests delivers a forceful message."

— Publisher's Weekly, starred review

  "Young uses a panoply of papers to create collages that tell the story of a sacrifice that saved hundreds of lives. Patterned and marbled papers, fibrous grass cloth, translucent rice paper and tissue, photographic magazine papers, and even corrugated cardboard are keenly cut, roughly torn, layered, wrinkled, mounted, and manipulated to produce images that range from dead calm to the sea-spittled tumult of a roiling vortex that promises to consume everything in its path. The art reflects the frenzy of the events and is a departure from the more serene, controlled, and balanced work we know of Young. Kajikawa has based the character of Ojiisan on Japanese hero Hamaguchi Gohei, who in 1854 set his own rice-stack harvest ablaze, diverting the attention of revelers and drawing them away from impending disaster. A simple story of the power of a simple act."

— School Library Journal, starred review

  "An eventful tale of disaster and heroism..."

— The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, Recommended


Chicago Tribune reviewer Mary Harris Russell revisits her review of Tsunami!

"...I reviewed Tsunami in the Chicago Tribune some months back now. I wanted to add, however, additional praise for it. My grandchildren (Ethan, 6, and Phoebe, 4) are used to visiting grandma-the-book-reviewer's house and finding STACKS and STACKS of books.  They pulled out Tsunami! and have been asking to see it again and again. I take their "field testing" very seriously, so pass on my compliments, again, to the author and illustrator."


Tsunami! makes Fuse #8's blog's 2010 Caldecott Predictions list

Elizabeth Bird said, "My Ed Young track record is off, but I thought this was a real stunner.  I'm still haunted by the wall of black water rising above the tiny helpless village.  *shudder*"

Check out Elizabeth's review of Tsunami! here:


Renee Ting of Shen's Books raves about Tsunami!

"This book has everything!  Beautiful text, timed just right to be simultaneously horrifying and heartwarming, suspense, excitement, a wise man's puzzling act. A colorful celebration followed by raging fires and massive destruction, a hero, then a happy ending. Oh, and of course, amazing artwork...It goes without saying the any book illustrated by Ed Young will be wonderful to look at, but Tsunami! is superlative even among his books...Kimiko Kajikawa adapted this story from a short story published in 1897, and has done so perfectly. The language and pacing is so perfect that I wanted to savor every sentence... Every page of Tsunami! filled me with different emotions, from peace to horror, to cheering, to despair. Until the ending, after Ojisan has saved the villagers, though not the village, his generosity and kindness overwhelmed me. I closed the book, smiling and swallowing hard."

To read the entire review, click here:


One Person Can Make a Difference
Wendy Lukehart, Curriculum Connections — School Library Journal, 3/3/2009

Our children have learned of several major weather-related disasters in the last few years; the stories in the news have told of people who provided aid and those who were not so helpful. How do we discuss these events and opportunities to assist with children in ways that are inspiring, but not overwhelming — or didactic? Kimiko Kajikawa has wisely turned to a 19th-century story by Lafcadio Hearn, adapting it in Tsunami! (Philomel, 2009, K-Gr 3). With dramatic collages by Ed Young, this story of a wealthy and wise old rice farmer in long-ago Japan strikes just the right note. Ojiisan lives above a village near the sea, and one day while he watches a rice festival from his balcony, he is shocked to observe the ocean moving away from the land. He knows that can only mean one thing. He acts quickly to catch the attention of the oblivious crowds below by setting his rice fields on fire. This sacrifice that saves the lives of every person in the village, as they rush to help him, is memorably conveyed through Young's art. Comprised of natural fibers, straw, handmade papers, and other materials, his compositions and perspectives evoke the textures of his subjects, as well as their force and vulnerability.

"Breathtaking. Pass-around-the-workroom-and-marvel-at-it gorgeous. Intense. Gripping. A terrific story. I seem unable to describe this book except in tiny movie-blurb phrases. It's that good. Gazing upon the illustrations in Tsunami!, I could feel the thunder of the great wave in my chest. I felt the pressure of the silence before the wave, and I heard its hissing retreat. The two-page spread of the wave hovering over the village is the best work that Ed Young has ever done, and the story is just as strong."

— Pink Me, Children's Books Reviewed for Grownups



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