by John Heffernan, Lyn White (editor) – Allen & Unwin 2017
ages 12 years and up / chapter books, y.a.
All of us have at some time been shocked and heartbroken as we watch a natural disaster unfold on the news. We feel a variety of emotions ranging from fear to devastation as we view stories of bravery and selflessness. But often as the news-cycle moves on, so do we—we who have been personally unaffected.
For those who have been affected by it, moving on is impossible.
Hotaka is the tale of the town of Omori-wan, one of the Japanese villages devastated by the 2011 Tsunami and the people who are trying to learn to live after everything is swept away—it's told through the eyes of a young boy, Hotaka:
Hotaka normally loved his walk through the little forest at the back of his house, a winding track beneath a magical canopy of trees. And stepping from the forest onto the side of Monk Head Hill was pure delight, giving a full view of Omori-wan. The town was said to be the prettiest in all of Tohoku, with its happy mix of quaint and colourful buildings along the harbourfront. The scene always made Hotaka smile.
There was no magic this time, though. A grey, drizzly sky cast gloom over everything. There were tremors, too, chilling reminders of what lurked below. But the worst bit of all was what greeted Hotaka when he emerged from the trees. He gasped. He actually cried out, a shriek of pain as if he’d been physically wounded.
There was no Omori-wan.
An army of giants had ravaged the town, kicked and trampled and smashed it to pieces.
Further on in the story—three years after the Tsunami—the people are still trying to heal. But they have no idea how to do that. Some lost everything and are stuck in poverty with no way to start over. Some are struggling with the weight of those they lost with no way to move on. And some are using the misfortune of others to line their own pockets and get what they can.
As we read, we follow Hotaka and his two young friends as they each travel their own roads to healing while coming together to expose corruption and ignite the fire of hope in the people of Omori-wan. I particularly like these words from the book:
Hotaka is a moving tale of disaster, loss, letting go and the bravery of moving forward. It's part of the Through My Eyes: Natural Disaster Zones series, which "invites young readers to enter the fragile worlds of children living in contemporary war zones." Here's a sampling if you'd like to explore further: