The Little Wave, by Pip Harry
Updated: Jan 15, 2021
I really love verse novels - so when I heard about this book for middle grade readers told in verse, I was keen to read it. Verse novels are not easy to do well - but as I started reading this book, I was immediately completely absorbed in the story and knew that this book was going to be something special. I was unable to put this book down, wanting to see how things were going to work out for the kids who are narrating this story of friendship, courage and healing.
The little Wave is about three different kids who find themselves drawn together in ways they never could have expected. There's Noah, who loves to surf, but is starting to realise that his best mate is a bully; Lottie, who loves bugs, but can't see a way to help her dad deal with his grief; and Jack, who excels at cricket, but is having difficulty staying motivated at school.
These three different characters are drawn together when Noah and Lottie's Manly school go about raising funds to bring a class from a school in the country to the city to see the beach. Noah ends up writing letters to Jack in the country, and Noah and Lottie are assigned to work together on fund raising ideas.
Noah, Lottie and Jack begin to discover that - despite their differences - there are also things they have in common. While they have all experienced some sort of hurt or grief, their strength and kindness is the thread that links them all together.
The spare writing style is at times beautifully lyrical. I frequently came across a sentence or image that was dazzling and rich with meaning – adding texture and layers to the narrative. I love the symbolism of Jack riding a little wave towards the end of the story – illuminating the way in which even something small can have its own power; and make a difference.
I also love how, despite the young audience this book is intended for, Pip Harry does not shy away from tough subjects such as bullying, loss, and addiction – but these themes are explored with a deftness which ensures that the tone never feels despairing, and is balanced out by friendship, kindness, humour and warmth.
We are gently shown that adults can also be flawed and make mistakes– but the adults in this book all have enormous love for their children, and we can see their efforts to embark on the path to healing and understanding.
The teachers in this book are fabulous characters – showing sensitivity to the needs of the more quiet and reserved students, looking for ways to showcase the strengths of these students and draw them into connecting with other like-minded students. I love how Jack’s teacher tried to encourage him not to give up on school despite the obstacles he faced – to find his own strengths and to keep on trying. She showed him that anything is possible.
The narrators of this book are three distinct well drawn characters that primary school readers will readily relate to – they have curiosity and humour and heart and hope. As we read they become real and we are completely absorbed in their world, – we care about what happens to them. And this, of course, is one of the most important features of a successful story.
This is a story that, while gently showing us the reality of grief and loss and fear – ultimately shimmers with a radiant hope.
Highly recommended for your home or school library.
Published by UQP