Teachers Notes - A Kiss in Every Wave by Angela Boyd

Teacher Notes compiled by Angela Boyd

It is not what happens to us, but how we deal with what happens that helps make us the people we are. A Kiss in Every Wave is a novel for young teenagers that highlights the issue of caring for someone with an illness in the home. In this case, Jessie has a grandmother with dementia. Jessie resents her Nanny's presence in her home, and the resulting changes that have to be made. The discovery of World War 2 love letters, however, changes her attitude. Jessie also loves swimming. Her training, her interaction with a few friends from school, and her developing relationship with Elijah become other avenues whereby Jessie learns to accept others.

 About the Author

Rosanne Hawke has written other novels for young adults:

Re-entry (CBC Notable Book, 1996)


The Keeper, a novel for younger readers

Sailmaker, the sequel to The Keeper, will be released in 2002

Zenna Dare, another young adult novel, which will also be released in 2002

Rosanne has a teaching background and holds an author in residency at Tyndale Christian School, SA.
 Theme and Character Development

Jessie is the central character of the novel and the theme is conveyed through her experiences. Beside the main theme of caring for someone with Alzheimers' Disease, there are several other important issues. The nature of love, peer relationships, how other people can influence your thinking, appreciating one's family, accepting people who are different, and adopting a positive attitude, are things that Jessie must deal with. It is through these things that Jessie grows up and matures in her thinking and outlook.

Jessie's character at the start of the novel.

At fourteen years of age, Jessie is fairly immature. This is demonstrated in her selfishness and unkindness to Nanny and even Hayden, her younger brother, at times. She is conscious of her own space and wants to keep it to herself. She hasn't yet thought much about the issues of people with different cultures or ways of doing things. Like Kylie, she assesses people by appearances. Elijah, for example, is referred to as "skinny" and "weird." She is a little self-conscious about her own appearance and feels that her puppy fat makes her unattractive to boys. Although reticent, she does have a personality that doesn't get her totally down as Rita's might if she were to dwell too much on weight. When it comes to swimming, her self-concept is fairly healthy. She approaches her swimming with self-discipline and enthusiasm, and achieves a good deal of success as a result. Because of the kids she is friends with, she's not trusting enough to tell things about herself. She is at that age where she is trying to be independent of parents and to work things out for herself, and is not aware of what they may be going through as well.

Someone with a disease is still in there.

Jessie learns to love Nanny through the letters. At first she assumes they belong to her Great Aunt Jean, and is astounded to discover that "Babe" is actually her grandmother. She discovers that there is a person who was once vibrant and loving and young underneath the disease.

The importance of being trustworthy

She also learns to trust again. Elijah is different to her friends in that he seems to understand how she feels, and she begins to confide in him. At the start of the novel Cadbury, her dog, was the only one she talked to because of the way her friends had betrayed confidences. Past embarrassment was still keenly felt.

Accepting others

She gets to know and appreciate other students at school who are not accepted by her friends because they are culturally different or academic achievers. It dawns on her that she has unquestioningly let her peers do her thinking for her and accepted the peer group mentality. When she thinks of how Hayden, her gifted younger brother would be treated as a result of such attitudes, she becomes kinder. She also examines the relationship between her mother and Uncle Dion, realising that she would like to have the same kind of relationship with Hayden as they grow up.

A positive outlook

In spite of the hardships and difficulties Bud is enduring, in the letters his constant message to Babe is, "keep your chin up." It is a message that is echoed by Jessie's beloved Uncle Dion and also by Elijah. This attitude impresses itself on Jessie and she takes it on board for herself.

The true nature of love

The realisation that love is not just a Hollywood-style romantic feeling, but is hanging in there when it is rough, helps Jessie understand that real love is unconditional. You love, whether someone remembers your name or not, whether you get something back or not. She observes her mother's love in particular, and appreciates what her parents are going through. She learns that people are more important than she first thought. Previously, swimming and her own concerns took up most of her time and energy.


She learns a few of these things from Elijah, from Uncle Dion, and also from the letters, but mainly from having Nanny in the house. If Nanny hadn't come, none of these things would have occurred in Jessie's life. She wouldn't have met Elijah because her mother would have still been picking her up from the pool. She wouldn't have read the letters, and she wouldn't have learned to love a difficult old lady.