Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I Survived: The Japanese Tsunami, 2011 - a review

At last year's KidLitCon, attendees were reminded to blog for a particular purpose and audience. I selfishly blog primarily for myself - to help me remember and gather my thoughts about the many children's books that I read in pursuit of my favorite job - connecting children with the "perfect" book, or in librarian terms, reader's advisory.  If along the way if I can save you some time or help you in a similar pursuit, so much the better.  This is why I don't always read the most talked about books, the most award-winning books, or the books with the greatest literary merit. I want to read what children like, and  a boy in my book club told me emphatically what he likes, I Survived books! "I've read them all," he told me.

I must confess that despite their popularity, I hadn't read any! Fortuitously, however, Scholastic sent me a galley copy of their upcoming, I Survived; The Japanese Tsunami, 2011 by Lauren Tarshis.

This is the 8th book in the series.  Written for grades 2-5, these are small, short chapter books; each chapter is only a few pages. The Japanese Tsunami, 2011, contains 13 chapters and is 83 pages, not including the back matter - facts, author's note, and resource materials.

I assume that most of the books are similar - a child survives one of history's worst natural or man made disasters.  In The Japanese Tsunami, it is Ben, an American born child visiting his Japanese grandfather, along with his mother and brother.  His father, an Air Force pilot, recently died in Iraq.

Miraculously, although Ben is swept away from the rest of the family in the tsunami, they all survive and are eventually reunited.  It's not a likely story, but here's what there is to like about it:


  • Though it was written very soon (too soon?) after the disaster, it should be remembered that kids don't often pay attention to the news, and to them, March 11, 2011, may seem like a lifetime ago.  It's helpful to remind them of world-changing events.

  • Books like the ones in the I Survived series help bring history alive for young people.  It's easier to relate to history if it is seen through the eyes of someone in a similar situation to one's own.

  • The I Survived books are short and popular - great choices for reluctant readers.

And finally,

  • Author Lauren Tarshis understands the freshness, the immensity, and the gravity of this particular disaster, and treats it with respect.  It was, after all, three separate and devastating disasters - an earthquake of epic proportions (lasting five minutes), a tsunami (hundreds of feet long and dozens of feet high), and a nuclear meltdown that sent more than 200,000 people fleeing from their homes.


In her author's notes, "A Triple Disaster," she notes that writing about the Japanese Tsunami was unlike writing the other I Survived books in which she could imagine herself in the shoes of her protagonists.  Regarding the Japanese Tsunami, 2011, she writes, the

...disaster was so enormous, I really can't being to imagine what it was like - the terror, the destruction, the exhaustion, the despair.
 What I do feel - deep in my heart - is admiration for the millions of people of the Tohoku region and throughout eastern Japan who are rebuilding their towns and their lives, who are determined to move forward ..
Due on shelves in September, 2013, this one's sure to be popular.

The art in my copy was not final, but the book will apparently have several black and white illustrations.

Kids can take an I Survived Survival Skills Quiz on the Scholastic website.

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