Leza Lowitz author of Jet Black and other novels
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Up From the SeaUp from the Sea

by Leza Lowitz

Crown Books for Young Readers
(Penguin Random House)
January 12, 2016

A powerful novel-in-verse about how one teen boy survives the March 2011 tsunami that devastates his coastal Japanese village.

On that fateful day, Kai loses nearly everyone and everything he cares about. When he’s offered a trip to New York to meet kids whose lives were changed by 9/11, Kai realizes he also has a chance to look for his estranged American father. Visiting Ground Zero on its tenth anniversary, Kai learns that the only way to make something good come out of the disaster back home is to return there and help rebuild his town.

Heartrending yet hopeful, Up from the Sea is a story about loss, survival, and starting anew.

Fans of Jame Richards’s Three Rivers Rising and teens who read Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust as middle graders will embrace this moving story. An author’s note includes numerous sources detailing actual events portrayed in the story.


Up From The Sea book trailer is LIVE:

If you can not watch it, please click here to see in it in YouTube.

Reviews of Up from the Sea

Up from the Sea touched me deeply with its beautiful message of hope and the resilience of humanity. Bravo.
–Ellen Oh, author of The Prophecy series

School Library Journal:
A thoughtful exploration of the March 2011 tsunami in Japan and its aftermath. The tsunami destroyed more than just buildings during its rampage of the coastal cities of Japan; it destroyed the lives of many in the process. Although a work of fiction, this well-researched novel will place readers within the turmoil of that event and make them think about the people and families who experience the devastation of natural and man-made disasters every day. With an accurate background and written entirely in free verse, Lowitz’s work offers a short but poignant view into the life of Kai, a biracial Japanese teen who loses everything and everyone in the storm. While his village struggles to rebuild, Kai receives the opportunity to visit New York to meet other kids who experienced similar life-changing pain in the September 11 tragedy. It is there that Kai finally learns the importance of trying hard and growing up despite overwhelming grief. The fast-paced writing progresses the plot perfectly to fit with the subject. The narration exudes emotion, and teens will connect with Kai as he faces the usual trials of growing up while living through such a difficult time. The open and honest talk about death may spark conversation among readers. Fans of Ellen Hopkins’s work will enjoy the immediacy of this novel-in-verse. VERDICT A well-written first purchase for teen collections.
– DeHanza Kwong, NC

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami hit the Tohoku region in March 2011, disrupting life for 17-year-old Kai and his community. The child of an American father long departed and a Japanese mother and grandparents, all lost in the tsunami, biracial Kai is left to both grieve and persevere. Lowitz bases her novel in verse on true events, including a soccer ball washing up from a Hawaiian beach and the teen who rallies a soccer team to boost his town’s spirit. The ravaging storm is emphasized by Lowitz’s use of concrete poetry with first lines serving as passage titles. Told in the four seasons of a year, the story follows as Kai makes a transformative trip to New York in September, sharing experiences of 3/11 with survivors of 9/11 on the occasion of its 10-year anniversary. Back matter includes Lowitz’s description of living through the tsunami and the aftermath. Readers who appreciate the power of sports, friendship, and family to heal and to restore will engage with this well-paced emotional journey.
— Gail Bush

Life changes in an instant for seventeen-year-old Kai, sitting in math class in a coastal region of Japan on Friday afternoon, March 11, 2011. He is thinking about skateboarding with his two best friends when the massive earthquake strikes. Lowitz’s free-verse novel sweeps the reader into Kai’s fragmented, rapidly changing consciousnesss. Blocked by fallen trees from climbing a mountainside, the students race to a high bridge only to be swept away in the tsunami. Kai survives but loses his entire family. He has already lost his American father, who abandoned them six years earlier. Taunted throughout childhood as “Hafu,” or half-Japanese, Kai is chosen to fly to New York to meet young people who lost parents on 9/11. Their warmth allows Kai to open up and move past his anger and his grief. When he returns to Japan, incredibly, his old soccer ball has washed up on a beach in Hawaii and is returned. Kai starts a soccer team with the youngsters who have been begging him to teach them. If the ball made it back, can Dad be far behind? And what will Kai choose when offered homes in two countries? Lowitz based her fiction on various true events. It is a moving story of the rebirth of hope in a teen who has lost almost everything. The book is flavored with Japanese customs and legends unobtrusively explained in quick footnotes. But Kai will resonate with teens on a simple human level, just as 3/11 resonates with 9/11.
—Katherine Noone.

Dreaming with Open Eyes by Romuald Dzemo:
A story of hope not only for those who lost everything to the tsunami but for the whole of suffering humanity, Up from the Sea is a work of great depth, the fruit of long research, and a masterpiece from a writer who feels the cry of humanity very deeply. [It] underscores powerful lessons on the primacy of community…Besides being highly entertaining and captivating, Lowitz’s writing is purpose-driven and offers wonderful lessons about recovery, hope, and perseverance.
—Romuald Dzemo


Barnes & Noble Teen Blog recommends Up from the Sea as one of Top 5 Teen historical novels

Celebrating Asian Heritage Month with 5 verse novels, including Up From the Sea on HATBOOKS

Up From the Sea featured on Colours of Us; 30 Recommended Asian American Kids Books

Up From the Sea Makes BookRiot’s “100 Must Read YA Books in Verse”

Up from the Sea in TimeOut Tokyo, Remembering 3-11.

Japan Today: “A moving story based on real events that occurred in the disaster-stricken areas, “Up From the Sea” is a novel about survival through mutual support and reliance in tragic times, where the question of “can hope be found when everything is lost?” is continuously raised and explored.”

Texan in Tokyo wrote a beautiful post honouring the upcoming fifth anniversary of the disaster. Grace and I talk a bit about our desire to keep Tohoku in people’s hearts and minds.

MeliBelle in Tokyo says: “The reader feels each phrase, each verse like a puncture or a wave. It is experiential and visual, in a way the traditional novel cannot live or tread. It is a deep work and appeals to young adults in being fast-paced and highly visual…. It is poetry in the form of a novel and it is beautiful.”
See the full review here.

“Lowitz gives her readers the courage to develop ways to create memories of the heart.”
Up from the Sea Joins MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN’S BOOK DAY–#114. The review also appears in A Trill Reader, offering wonderful review and suggestions on how to celebrate life, practice gratitude and honor death.

Up from the Sea takes The Page 69 Test, in which you go to page 69 of your novel and see what’s there. Great idea! The blog’s creator posts about Up from the Sea here too.

The Japan Times calls Up from the Sea: “A powerful, deeply moving book.”

Japan Exchange and Teaching Review

Eat, Read and Be Mommy Review

BuzzFeed Books chose as 5 YA Books You Should Be Reading in January

Book Review Suite Review


Teen Reviews of Up from the Sea

This moving story about a young adult trying to stay optimistic in times of tragedy appeals to all age groups, and is great for anyone who follows global issues. I recommend it to fans of “I Am Malala” or the more recent “Never Said.
–Emma, Teen Advisory Board Member, BookPeople of Idaho. Age 14. Grade 9.

Kai is an average seventeen year old living in Japan with his Mother and Grandparents when a tsunami sweeps away his old life. What Kai doesn’t realize is that it also made him open his eyes to the world and see that he is not the only one that lost something important. When he gets the opportunity to go to New York and meet kids who lost a lot during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, he takes it and finds himself and his dad in the process. I enjoyed this book a lot and thought it was very well written and inspiring.
–Sophia, age 13. Grade 8.
Kai’s life was normal. He had soccer, his family and school. Then on March 2011, everything changed. The tsunami destroyed everything and everyone in its path. This tale of survival through natural disaster is stunning and eye-opening. Kai’s transformation and acceptance is amazing to watch. If you are looking for something different from a basic love story, then I recommend this book!
–Meridian, 9th grader at Moscow High School, Idaho




pack flapping winglike against my back.

Plowing through blocks
strewn with heaps of
in a marshland


amazon.com indiebound



Jet Black and the Ninja WindJet Black and the Ninja Wind
(Book One in the Kuroi Clan Trilogy)

by Leza Lowitz & Shogo Oketani
Forthcoming, November, 2013 from Tuttle

Jet Black is the last living female ninja in the world. There’s only one problem–she doesn’t know it. Everyone else does, and they all want to capture her and uncover her secret–a secret she doesn’t even know she has.

Will the discovery of Jesus’s bone in Japan, the development of a totally ambiguous high tech language, and Navajo military strategy lead Jet to the ancient treasure on sacred Emishi land?  When her mother dies, Jet must go to Japan to find the link between these three mysterious quests–or die trying.

Stalked by bounty hunters and desperately in love with the one man sent to kill her, Jet summons up years of buried training to unleash her hidden power.  But are they strong enough to protect the treasure, preserve the ancient culture, and save a sacred mountain from destruction?

To emerge triumphant, can Jet become the ninja wind?



Winner of the 2013-2014 APALA Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature
2015 Sakura Medal Nominee
Shortlisted for the 2014 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award


See what the critics are saying: click here

The Diplomat: click here

My Book, The Movie: click here

Bookish Review: click here

BookWhales Review: click here

Japan Times Review: click here

Manifest Station Review: click here

To view a list of the players in the novel: click here


Jet Black and the Ninja Wind Book Trailer is live on Youtube.
Directed by Chris Mauch (storyboard artist for DIVERGENT),
CJ Gardella (Director of Shunka), and their crackerjack ninja team.


Dog-lovers bonus: a ninja Akita helps save the day!


“This fast-paced whirlwind story of the teenage Jet, inheritor of ninja skills through her Japanese mother, spins the reader through history, legend, Buddhism and modern Japan. With vivid description, Lowitz and Oketani have created a visual experience akin to watching an epic thriller film. Five stars!”
– Liza Dalby, author of Geisha, Hidden Buddhas and The Tale of Murasaki


amazon.com indiebound



MilkMilk (Screenplay)

Co-author, feature film, with Edgar Honetschläger
Fischer Film, Vienna, Austria, 1997

What happens when green tea meets milk ? Find out as four young urban nomads find themselves in Tokyo – a city spinning with pop culture and ancient traditions. Follow a quirky Austrian artist drawn to the offbeat Japanese woman he met at New York’s Chelsea Hotel and a mysterious monument he discovers in Tokyo. The young Japanese woman finds freedom in the role of Elevator Girl, where her many choices are reduced to “up” and “down”. Meet a radio English teacher from New York who falls in love with a rogue salaryman. Spirits live, cultures clash and twains meet in this hip, atmospheric, and truly original film. Funded by Austrian Ministry of Arts, Japan Foundation, Bank of Osaka. Premiered at Vienna International Film Festival (October 1997), nominated for Best Austrian Film; shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Forum), Stockholm, Bulgaria (1998). Shown at Cannes, Haidarabad, New Delhi, Rotterdam, Geneva and Solothurn International Film Festivals (1999).

View the official film site: click here

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