Review of Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks

Sarah and the Big Wave: The True Story of the First Woman to Surf Mavericks
by Bonnie Tsui; illus. by Sophie Diao
Primary    Holt    32 pp.    g
5/21    978-1-250-23948-8    $18.99

Tsui’s picture-book debut introduces young readers to Sarah Gerhardt, a pioneering figure in modern women’s surfing. The text opens in 1999 with Gerhardt facing her first massive ­Mavericks wave (so named for the waves’ location, a surf break in ­Northern ­California) and then jumps back in time to her childhood in Hawaii when women were not encouraged to surf, and surfing equipment for girls was not even available. The text is mostly very immediate and focused on Gerhardt’s feelings and experiences, but it does take several digressions to give information on wave formation and size. Diao’s expansive, breathtaking art is the showstopper here, with several spreads and one spectacular gatefold giving readers an idea of the size of the waves Gerhardt is surfing. The ocean in the illustrations shifts from glass green and inviting to stormy and intimidating, making the waves almost their own personified character. The timeline of women in surfing history is the only back matter; readers may find themselves left with unanswered questions and looking for more information about Gerhardt’s feats.

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Laura Koenig

Laura Koenig is the Team Leader for Central Library Children's Services at the Boston Public Library.

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