The Wakame Gatherers
By Holly Thompson
Illustrated by Kazumi Wilds
Nanami has two grandmothers: Baachan, who lives with her family in Japan, and Gram, who lives in Maine. When Gram visits Japan for the first time, Baachan takes her and Nanami on a trip to the seaside to gather Wakame, a long, curvy seaweed that floats near the shore.
While the three assemble their equipment and ride the streetcar to the beach, Baachan explains how Wakame and other seaweeds are used in Japan. Gram shares stories about how seaweeds are used in Maine, and Nanami translates for them both.
By the end of the day, Nanami's two grandmothers discover that they have much in common despite being from countries that fought in the war they both remember vividly. Now, looking out across the beach at the surfers, dog walkers, and seaweed gatherers, they share an appreciation of this precious peace.
Holly Thompson's beautiful prose captures the exuberance of a young girl who easily traverses between two cultures and languages. It also illuminates the love and understanding that grow between two older women who are so different, yet share an unbreakable bond. Kazumi Wild's bright, vivid paintings make the Japanese landscape and the rocky shores of Maine come alive, reminding us all that we share this earth and the peace that we create.
Check out the lesson plan for The Wakame Gatherers by Colorado elementary educators as part of the Texts and Contexts: Teaching Japan through Children’s Literature online curriculum created by the Program for Teaching East Asia, University of Colorado.
About the Creators
has lived for many years in Kamakura, Japan, where she has often gathered wakame with her children and observed the harvesting of cultivated wakame. Raised in New England, she earned her M.A. in fiction writing from New York University and now teaches creative writing at Yokohama City University. She writes for both children and adults and is the Regional Advisor of the Tokyo chapter of the Society of Children s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her novel Ash is also set in Japan.
was born in Tokyo studied art at the Women s College of Art in Tokyo and at the University of Minnesota. She has illustrated three other children s books and teaches art when she is not painting. Kazumi now lives in the mountains of western Japan, near the Sea of Japan, with her children, dog, and cats. She remembers her many trips to Kamakura fondly