Wow, some books just make you stop dead in your tracks and you need a moment to take it all in. This is definitely one of those books.
Maiko and his neighbour, Mr. Hirota, shared the same routine each morning. From the edge of Mr. Hirota’s garden they would look for their loved ones down at the harbour. It was a game, and it was one that Maiko would always win. It was a game that they were playing when their lives would change forever. It was the day that the big wave came and took everything they had and those that they loved. Struggling with his grief, Mr. Hirota builds a phone booth in his garden but when Maiko investigates he finds a phone that is not connected to anything. Lost in his grief and angry at the ocean, Maiko watches and listens and he soon realises that the phone inside the booth is no ordinary phone. It somehow connects people to those that they have lost and it may give him the opportunity to say something very special to his father.
This a beautiful and moving picture book based on fact. A man did indeed build a phone booth in his garden in Otsuchi, Japan. It was to aid him in his grief following the death of a cousin. He believed that his words would travel on the wind and be heard by his loved one. When the tsunami struck the coast of Japan in 2011 it destroyed many things. It destroyed the villages, it destroyed livelihoods, it took lives, and for those that remained, it took their voices. The phone booth proved to be a great healer. People found their voices and rather than be angry at the sea they were able to express feelings to loved ones and gradually heal themselves. Thousands of local villagers visited the phone booth. Just like its creator, they too saw the phone booth as a way to connect with their lost loved ones and for their words to be heard.
The book tells a gentle story of love, finding a way to grieve and how to mourn the loss of a loved one. It is also a story about being healed and moving on. The phone booth brings comfort to many and it allows them to say things to a loved one, precious things that will ride on the wind. It is beautifully illustrated. From the muted tones and shades of grey that show the devastation of the wave to the brighter pastel shades that end the book and convey healing and hope.
You cannot help but think of all the things that you would say to a lost loved one had you the chance to use the ‘phone of the wind’. It is a reminder to the reader to value what they have and to never ignore the opportunity to pick up the phone and speak to a loved one. For we never know when the next ‘big wave’ might arrive.
Beautiful, profound and deeply moving.
Recommended for 9+.