The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden
The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden
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Annotation: Tells the story of a young Japanese boy who loses his dad in a tsunami.
Catalog Number: #202884
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
Publisher: Orca Books
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Illustrator: Wada, Rachel,
Pages: 32
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-459-82103-3 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-6918-6
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-459-82103-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-6918-1
Dewey: E
LCCN: 2019934057
Dimensions: 28 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
When tragedy strikes a Japanese fishing community, a young boy navigates grief with the help of a ne
Publishers Weekly
In a story based on a garden telephone booth and the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan, Smith (The Agony of Bun O-Keefe) imagines a Japanese boy named Makio and his neighbor, Mr. Hirota. Each morning, the two vie to spot Makio-s fisherman father as he unloads the day-s catch, and Mr. Hirota-s daughter, who helps to clean the fish (-It was one of their favorite games-). But Makio-s father and Mr. Hirota-s daughter are both lost in a giant wave-Wada illustrates with strongly composed watercolor spreads whose masses of black shadow convey foreboding and sorrow-and Makio, grief-stricken, stops speaking. Mr. Hirota builds a white phone booth in his garden, the telephone -connected to nowhere.- Makio watches him enter it to talk to his dead daughter, and other villagers begin visiting it, too. After screaming at the ocean, which offers only its customary response, Makio decides to try the phone booth himself. -Guess what? I did really well on my math test. ...I miss you, Dad.- Speaking directly to his departed family about ordinary events gives Makio his voice back and helps him traverse grief. An affecting, well-rendered resource for talking about catastrophes and grief both personal and communal. Ages 6-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
K-Gr 3 Grief and healing are explored in this gentle picture book inspired by real events. In 2011, a giant tsunami hit the coast of northeastern Japan, destroying entire villages and taking the lives of thousands. In spare prose, Smith spins a quietly moving narrative that highlights the remarkable way one village found healing in the aftermath of the disaster. As young Makio mourns the death of his fisherman father, he notices his neighbor, Mr. Hirota, building something mysterious: a phone booth with a disconnected telephone. Even stranger, Mr. Hirota uses the "phone connected to nowhere" to speak to his daughter who died in the tsunami. Soon, other villagers flock to the phone booth to "call" their lost loved ones. Although Makio is still processing the anger and trauma that goes hand-in-hand with grief, he decides to try the phone himself and finds a sense of peace at last. Wada's large-scale woodblock style illustrations, with their evocative use of color to convey emotion, are a perfect complement to the story's restrained text. Best shared with an adult who can provide context for the tragedy, young readers will find much to discuss here, ranging from how tsunamis work to the true story of the phone booth and the various ways people cope with loss. VERDICT The graceful way in which this book handles a sensitive and serious subject makes it a first purchase for most picture book collections. Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
When tragedy strikes a Japanese fishing community, a young boy navigates grief with the help of a neighbor.Every day, Makio and his elderly neighbor, Mr. Hirota, play a game spotting family members working on the shore cleaning the catch of the day. Suddenly an earthquake strikes, and the two watch in horror as their loved ones are caught in the ensuing tsunami. "Everyone lost someone the day the big wave came. / Silence hung over the village like a dark, heavy cloud." Makio has not spoken since but curiously watches as Mr. Hirota builds a telephone booth in his garden to talk to his lost daughter, Fumika. Soon other members of the community use the booth to talk to their lost ones: "Hello, cousin. Today I fixed the boat. I will fish again soon." Intrigued, Makio sneaks into the booth, finding a disconnected phone and the courage to finally say aloud, "I miss you, Dad." Basing her story on the tsunami that struck Otsuchi, Japan, in 2011, Smith uses a reverent, poetic tone that is heightened by Wada's mixed media illustrations. Wada uses a hybrid of Japanese art styles to mirror the grieving process, with the tragedy expressed in a dark gray palette, gradually underlined by pops of color and eventually giving way to a warmly colored pastel spread.A beautifully rendered tale of loss, love, grief, and gentle healing. (author's note) (Picture book. 6-8)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Loss, grief, and gradual acceptance are beautifully covered in a moving tale based on events that took place in Japan. Makio's father, as well as the daughter of his neighbor, Mr. Hirota, are both swept out to sea when a tsunami hits the shore of their fishing village: "Everyone lost someone the day the big wave came." Some time after that tragic day, Makio watches as his neighbor builds a phone booth on a hill overlooking the ocean. Inside the booth sits a telephone that connects to nothing but brings consolation to the villagers who wish to communicate with their lost loved ones. Atmospheric watercolors and pencil-and-ink illustrations are digitally assembled and deftly display the sadness felt by the boy and older man. Dark illustrations reflect the destruction, while hope and healing are revealed in the gradual lightening of the pictures. One poignant painting shows the child sitting at the end of a pier, remembering a time, mirrored on the water, when he and his father held hands before their lives were changed forever. The idea of finding a way to talk with people who have passed on offers comfort and peace to those left behind.
Word Count: 541
Reading Level: 2.3
Interest Level: P-2
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 2.3 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 507861 / grade: Lower Grades
Lexile: 490L
Guided Reading Level: R
Fountas & Pinnell: R

When the tsunami destroyed Makio's village, Makio lost his father . . . and his voice. The entire village is silenced by grief, and the young child's anger at the ocean grows. Then one day his neighbor, Mr. Hirota, begins a mysterious project—building a phone booth in his garden. At first Makio is puzzled; the phone isn't connected to anything. It just sits there, unable to ring. But as more and more villagers are drawn to the phone booth, its purpose becomes clear to Makio: the disconnected phone is connecting people to their lost loved ones. Makio calls to the sea to return what it has taken from him and ultimately finds his voice and solace in a phone that carries words on the wind.

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden is inspired by the true story of the wind phone in Otsuchi, Japan, which was created by artist Itaru Sasaki. He built the phone booth so he could speak to his cousin who had passed, saying, "My thoughts couldn't be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind." The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the town of Otsuchi, claiming 10 percent of the population. Residents of Otsuchi and pilgrims from other affected communities have been traveling to the wind phone since the tsunami.

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