Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

I survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011

I survived the Japanese Tsunami, 2011

Lauren Tarshis
Historical Fiction
For ages 8 to 10
Scholastic, 2013   ISBN: 978-0545459372

For years Ben has wanted to visit the small village in Japan where his father grew up. Now he and his family are in Japan, in the home of Ojisan, Ben’s great-uncle, and Ben is miserable. A few months ago Ben’s father was killed in a car crash not far from their home in California. Being in this place, staying with his Ojisan, brings back too many painful memories, and Ben is eager to go home to the place where he can push memories of his father away.

   On the morning of March 11, two days before their leaving date, Ben and his little brother Harry are in their bedroom when an earthquake hits. They have experienced earthquakes before, but nothing like this. As the ground shakes, a large crack opens up in the ceiling and Ben panics. Then he remembers a story his father told him, a story about how his father overcame a terrifying experience and Ben is able to ground himself and make a decision. He pushes his brother under the bed, which is strong, and they are under it when the roof caves in.

   Ben, his brother, their mother and Ojisan all manage to get out of the house before it collapses, and they are standing in the road outside when they see “a strange grey cloud hovering over the ocean.” It looks like smoke. Then a siren begins to howl and Ben realizes that he is looking at a wave, a huge tsunami. They pile into Ojisan’s car and he drives inland as fast as he can, but he is not fast enough and the wave grabs at the car. Ojisan, Harry and Ben’s mother was swept away and Ben is left trapped in the car with the water is rising around him. Ben manages to break one of the car windows to escape and then climbs onto a sofa that is floating by. When he looks around him he realizes that he is alone in a sea of water and wreckage.

   In this inspirational story we experience the tsunami that hit Japan in March of 2011 through the eyes of a young boy. It is interesting to see how Ben calls on his memories of his father to help him through the ordeal, and how he comes to understand that his father is still with him in spirit even if he is not with him in person any longer.

   At the back of the book the author provides readers with further information about what happened on that fateful day when Japan was hit by an earthquake and a tsunami, and how these events then caused a nuclear power station to start leaking toxic smoke and steam. It was a terrible time in Japan’s history.