THE PHONE BOOTH IN MR HIROTA’S GARDEN by Heather Smith and illustrated by Rachel Wada is out today from Orca Book Publishers!

★ “A beautifully rendered tale of loss, love, grief, and gentle healing.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred review

★ “A moving tale…offers comfort and peace to those left behind.”–Booklist, starred review

★ “An affecting, well-rendered resource for talking about catastrophes and grief both personal and communal.”–Publisher Weekly, starred review

★ “Smith spins a quietly moving narrative…Wada’s large-scale woodblock style illustrations are a perfect complement to the story’s restrained text…The graceful way in which this book handles a sensitive and serious subject makes it a first purchase for most picture book collections.”–School Library Journal, starred review

When the tsunami destroyed Makio’s village, Makio lost his father . . . and his voice. The entire village is silenced by grief, and the young child’s anger at the ocean grows. Then one day his neighbor, Mr. Hirota, begins a mysterious project—building a phone booth in his garden. At first Makio is puzzled; the phone isn’t connected to anything. It just sits there, unable to ring. But as more and more villagers are drawn to the phone booth, its purpose becomes clear to Makio: the disconnected phone is connecting people to their lost loved ones. Makio calls to the sea to return what it has taken from him and ultimately finds his voice and solace in a phone that carries words on the wind.

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden is inspired by the true story of the wind phone in Otsuchi, Japan, which was created by artist Itaru Sasaki. He built the phone booth so he could speak to his cousin who had passed, saying, “My thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind.” The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed the town of Otsuchi, claiming 10 percent of the population. Residents of Otsuchi and pilgrims from other affected communities have been traveling to the wind phone since the tsunami.

Heather Smith is the author of three YA novels, one middle grade verse novel, and three picture books. The Agony of Bun O’Keefe, received starred reviews from Kirkus and Quill & Quire, was named a best book of 2017 by Kirkus, Bank Street College of Education, The Globe & Mail, and Quill & Quire (honorable mention), was shortlisted for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award and the Geoffrey Bilson Historical Fiction Award, is a White Raven selection, won the Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Award, won the White Pine Award, and has been optioned for film/TV (Ilana C. Frank). Her middle grade verse novel, Ebb & Flow received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Quill & Quire, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award, won the Winterset Award, and is currently shortlisted for the TD Canadian Children’s Book Award. Smith is originally from Newfoundland, and now lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her husband and three children. Her east coast roots inspire much of her writing.