One of the things I love most about having bimonthly themes here in GatheringBooks is that we are led to so many books that we would not otherwise have discovered, this lovely book being one of them.
Every once in awhile you come across a delicious picture book that you just want to hug close to your heart. This is one of those books. I am a huge fan of Octavio Paz, and seeing his work translated and adapted for children – it’s just exquisite. And the illustrations are simply gorgeous.
My first trip to the seashore, I fell in love with the waves. Just as we were about to leave, one wave tore away from the sea. When the others tried to stop her by clutching at her floating skirts, she caught my hand, and we raced away together across the wrinkled sand.
I love how fantastically-surreal this entire picture book is – the Wave reified and transformed into this living and breathing creature with all its joys, eccentricities, defiant mood swings, and glorious beauty. I also enjoyed the fact that the adults have complete awareness of what is going on in the entire narrative – unlike in other picture books where only the child is able to see enchanted creatures that adults for some reason are unable to grasp with their jaded, exhausted eyes.
At first everything was filled with light and laughter:
Before, she had been one wave; now, she was many. She flooded our rooms with light and air, driving away the shadows with her blue and green reflections. Small forgotten corners crowded with dust and dark were swept by her light. The whole house shone with her laughter. Her smile was everywhere.
The wave slept with the boy, bathed him in a liquid tree of foam, lifted him gently like a feather. However, the wave’s essence is moved by the waxing and waning of the tides and the turning of the moon. Much as she enjoyed the boy’s company, the sea wind howled on black and bitter cloudy evenings with the storm raging outside, calling on to this stray, naughty wave with the fickle and turbulent heart. Whether the wave found its way back to its home, I shall leave for you to discover. There is much to move, entice, and enchant in this lyrical book. It also reminded me a little bit of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman and David Wiesner’s Sector 7. My ten year old daughter oohed and aahed as she was reading this aloud. I also asked her what her favorite lines were in the book. It came as no surprise that she read the exact phrase that moved me like no other:
At night we lay side by side, whispering secrets with smiles and smothered laughter. She rocked me to sleep in her waters and sang sweet sea songs into the shell of my ear. Sometimes in the dark she shimmered like a rainbow. To touch her then was like touching a piece of night tattooed with fire.
Isn’t that beautiful? If you wish to know what life is like with a wave, do find this book and flow with its lyrical beauty.
My Life with the Wave based on the story by Octavio Paz. Translated and adapted for children by Catherine Cowan and Illustrated by Mark Buehner. Published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1997. Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.
ALA Notable Children’s Book, IRA/CBC Children’s Choice
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 122 (
Cute book! The illustrations are awesome!
Erik, this is a truly beautiful book. Octavio Paz is one of the greatest writers there is. Won the Nobel Prize for Literature. You really should find this book.
I’ll ask my Mom!