The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden

by Heather Smith
  • courage-self-esteem
  • diversity
  • fiction
  • people-places

When the tsunami destroyed Makio’s village, Makio lost his father. Sadly, he was not alone. Everyone lost someone the day the big wave came. With the villagers silenced by grief, Makio’s anger at the ocean grows.

Then one day his neighbor, Mr. Hirota, starts a mysterious project that helps the villagers heal. How? Mr. Hirota has given the village a disconnected phone high on a hill.

Inspired by a true story, The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden is an honest and touching story of grief and recovery.

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, author

Originally from Newfoundland, Heather Smith now lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her family. Her Newfoundland roots inspire much of her writing. Her middle-grade novel Ebb and Flow was short-listed for the Governor General's Literary Award, and her YA novel The Agony of Bun O'Keefe won the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award and was short-listed for the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award and the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.

Rachel Wada, illustrator

Rachel Wada's work is defined by heavy texture, bold color and intricate details that capture the nuances of people, places and ideas, real and surreal. Rachel's identity as Japanese-Cantonese, an immigrant and a woman informs her artistic practice. She loves to put her own spin on traditional techniques, motifs and symbolism inspired by her cultural background. This duality of old and new is also apparent in her use of both traditional and digital mediums, and she draws inspiration from a variety of sources, from Japanese woodblock prints, Chinese pottery and ceramics, food packaging design to traditional folk art. Rachel lives in Vancouver.


  • ★ A beautifully rendered tale of loss, love, grief, and gentle healing. (Starred Review) - Kirkus Reviews Link to review
  • ★ A moving tale...offers comfort and peace to those left behind. (Starred Review) - Maryann Owen, Booklist Link to review
  • ★ An affecting, well-rendered resource for talking about catastrophes and grief both personal and communal. - Publishers Weekly Link to review
  • ★ Smith spins a quietly moving narrative... 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 Link to review

Rights Holder

Rights Holder: Orca Book Publishers



rights sold: Brazil (Editora Melhoramentos)

rights available: World, excl. North America

Additional Information

age range: 6 - 9

number of pages: 32

publication date: 09/17/2019

Original language of pub: English

Materials Available: finished book

Additional Materials: Book Excerpt