Title: Mizuto and the Wind
Author: Kaye Baillie
Illustrator: Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki
Publisher: MidnightSun Publishing
Publication date: June 2023
Mizuto and the Wind by Kaye Baillie, illustrated by Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki and published by MidnightSun Publishing is a moving and powerful story that tenderly explores the forces of nature, family connection, the power of imagination and glimmers of hope that may exist amidst all-consuming grief. This hope can trickle into the crevices of a shattered heart as slithers of light, potentially providing some solace and comfort. This story has been inspired by a true event which is equally heart breaking, achingly beautiful and deeply generous. Itaru Sasaki constructed a phone booth in his garden on top of a hill and placed in it, a disconnected phone. It was in this space that he grieved the loss of his cousin and connected to his loved one. After the tsunami that was triggered by the Great East Japan earthquake of 2011 that claimed nearly 20 000 lives, Mr Sasaki shared his private garden and phone booth with others so that they could use his Telephone of the Wind, Kaze no Denwa and experience a sense of hope.
This story follows Mizuto, a young boy who upon hearing about Kaze no Denwa chooses to visit it to speak to his Dad.
This book begins on what appears to be a normal day. Mizuto and his mother farewell their father/husband as he leaves for work along the backdrop of their family home and lush, verdant garden which his mother is tending to. This is no ordinary day, a catastrophic tsunami plunges Mizuto’s world into darkness, steals any happiness that once permeated their home, robs him of his father, who promised to teach him soccer. Where there was once joy, there is now unfathomable sadness, where there was optimism, now despair.
Mizuto learns of the Kaze no Denwa and this learning piques his curiosity. Intrigued by the Telephone of the Wind, he shares this new knowledge with his mother. She does not share in Mizuto’s desire to seek this out. Undeterred, Mizuto is keen to source this phone booth solo.
Mizuto’s inner thoughts and feeling while making his way to the phone booth mirror the scenes that confront him as “his thoughts were as scattered as the sea of homes now a tangle of rubble and mud”.
The sighting of the phone booth sees Mizuto feeling present in the moment, as he feels the whisper of the wind beckoning him to the phone. He lifts the receiver and talks to his father, connects with him by asking questions, sharing his heart and with this comes a sense of peace as “he no longer feels the waves in his belly”. He sits, observes the ocean, which this time mirrors his sense of calm, peace and stillness.
This cathartic experience is one Mizuto is keen to share with his mother. Discussing it with her becomes transformative as it is the first time “since the ground groaned and shifted and the giant waves took his father away” that his mother and him engage in a conversation. Promises are made and plans are devised to honour their deeply missed father/husband. The dark, heavy, isolating grief is penetrated by splinters of light. This phone then becomes a conduit for them both to connect, share their news and emotions with their loved one.
The colour palette employed in the ink and watercolour illustrations reflect the emotions Mizuto experiences during his deeply personal, heart breaking, unpredictable and isolating grief journey. The colour when his Dad is present and in his life is replaced with bleak, sombre colours that are swirled and have a chaotic, wild feel to them once he disappears. The family home becomes a space of black and white devoid of life and hope. Colour emerges once again when Mizuto learns about Kaze no Denwa. The colours used in the environment, the ocean and sky as well as the natural elements such as the wind also reflect and amplify Mizuto’s feelings.
At the beginning of the book is an author’s note explaining the inspiration for this story.