Title: The Big Wavethe big wave
Author: Pearl S. Buck
Pages: 57
Recommended Ages: 8 – 12
Star Rating: ★★★★

Pearl S. Buck is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of many adult novels, but this is the first children’s story that I’ve seen written by her.

The Story.

Kino and his family have always lived by the mighty ocean. They are as familiar with the sea as with their own turf – the pastureland that they farm. Although not fishermen themselves, they are friends with many of the village families, and Kino’s best friend, Jiya, is the son of a fisherman. Together Kino and Jiya often sail the coast, visiting not-too-distant islands, fishing, and swimming.

But the sea and earth hold more than just happy times in their span. They are also menacing – deadly. One day a great wave bears down on the village. It destroys the scrawny homes built on the beaches and kills Jiya’s parents and siblings.

Can Jiya learn to accept the death of his parents and move on with life? And will the flooded families ever develop the courage to once again dwell by the sea?


Kino’s father spends time in conversations with Kino. Although I didn’t always agree with what he was teaching his son (more on that later), I appreciated their relationship.

After the big wave destroys Jiya’s home and family, Kino’s family, although not at all wealthy, takes Jiya in and adopts him as their own.


My only caution concerns different religious statements that are made throughout the course of the story. For example, on one occasion Kino has this conversation with his father.

“Why is the sea such a color?” he asked.

“Sea mirrors sky,” his father replied. “Sea and earth and sky – if they work together against man, it will be dangerous indeed for us.”

“Where are the gods at such a time?” Kino asked. “Will they not be mindful of us?”

“There are times when the gods leave man to take care of himself,” his father replied. “They test us, to see how able we are to save ourselves.”

“And if we are not able?” Kino asked.

“We must be able.” His father replied. [pg. 17]

One man comments that all men are children of God.

“What is death?” Kino asked.

“Death is the great gateway,” Kino’s father said. His face was not at all sad. Instead, it was quiet and happy.

“The gateway – where?” Kino asked again.

Kino’s father smiled. “Can you remember when you were born?”

Kino shook his head. “I was too small.”

Kino’s father laughed. “I remember very well. Oh, how hard you thought it was to be born! You cried and you screamed.”

“Didn’t I want to be born?” Kino asked. This was very interesting to him.

“You did not,” his father told him smiling. “You wanted to stay just where you were in the warm, dark house of the unborn. But the time came to be born, and the gate of life opened.”

“Did I know it was the gate of life?” Kino asked.

“You did not know anything about it and so you were afraid of it,” his father replied. “But see how foolish you were! Here we were waiting for you, your parents, already loving you eager to welcome you. And you have been very happy, haven’t you?”

“Until the big wave came,” Kino replied. “Now I am afraid again because of the death that the big wave brought.”

“You are only afraid because you don’t know anything about death,” his father replied. “But someday you will wonder why you were afraid, even as today you wonder why you feared to be born.” [pgs. 32-33]

Kino and Jiya visit the island where sacred deer are kept.

Conclusion. An unusual story about a family that stuck together through tough times and practiced exceptional charity.

Review © 2012 Laura Verret

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