• Tom

The Little Wave by Pip Harry (2020 CBC shortlisted)

Pip Harry’s most recent book (2019) follows the stories of Noah, Lottie and Jack, all in grade five. Two of them attend one school on the shores of Sydney, and the third lives in a remote country town, but they are connected through an upcoming excursion in which the two classes are to meet. Over the course of the book, characters at these distant schools become pen pals, giving the author a convenient way for the characters to reveal to us what is on their mind.

This is written from three perspectives which alternate throughout the book (similar to “Wonder”, but for a younger audience). Also, aside from the pen-pal letters, the rest of the text is written in free verse. This lends itself to comparisons to other feel-good free verse stories such as those written by Sally Murphy (Toppling; Pearl vs. The World), or Sharon Creech (Love that Dog). In the case of “The Little Wave” however, I found myself wondering why she did this.

The use of three perspectives may initially be clumsy in the opening chapters, but it serves it’s purpose in the end. It allows for each character to reveal the thoughts that trouble them. It’s a nice reminder to kids that everyone has problems, even those who you think are winning. It’s an endearing intersection of three stories, that students are likely to find uplifting.

How can I use this with students?

Honestly, I would be careful not to dissect this book too much as they go. There is so little text in this one, it will be over shortly after they begin. Nevertheless, I have included two things worth addressing, with the second one being useful after the story is finished.

Inferring thoughts/feelings. There are many opportunities to pause and INFER what characters are thinking/feeling, as Pip Harry will usually use the last few lines of each short chapter (every few pages) to allude to what is to come. As you start to do that, you have another talking point: that authors will sometimes do this to keep our interested. From there it lends itself to critiquing how well she did or didn’t do this.

Making connections (to books with similar ideas). Some themes in this book, of friendship, family and resilience, are easy enough to spot. These connections will allow them to critique how well the authors showed this. The titles mentioned earlier (Toppling; Pearl vs. The World; Love that Dog) will allow for this. Why not go further, with some picture story books in that mix too (Voices in the Park – Anthony Browne; Small Things- Mel Tregonning; The Red Tree – Shaun Tan). That way there will be enough differences too, and they can cover many texts in a short period of time so they actually get to make those comparisons. It’s all fair game, the Victorian Curriculum touches on this in Level Four: “Make connections between the ways different authors may represent similar storylines, ideas”

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