On the Tip of a Wave: How Ai Weiwei's Art Is Changing the Tide

On the Tip of a Wave: How Ai Weiwei's Art Is Changing the Tide

By Author / Illustrator

Joanna Ho, Catia Chien


Biographies & Autobiographies

Age range(s)



Scholastic US








From New York Times bestselling author of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, Joanna Ho, and critically acclaimed illustrator, Catia Chien, comes a moving, powerful picture book about the life and work of activist and artist, Ai Weiwei.

'He [Ai Weiwei] felt the life jackets and an idea curled and crested through his fingertips. The way it always did.' Told in Joanna Ho's signature lyrical writing, this is the story that shines a light on Ai Weiwei and his journey, specifically how the Life Jackets exhibit at Konzerthaus Berlin came to be.

As conditions for refugees worsened, Ai Weiwei was inspired by the discarded life jackets on the shores of Lesbos to create a bold installation that would grab the attention of the world. Catia Chien masterfully portrays the intricate life of Ai Weiwei with inspirations from woodblock printing and a special emphasis on the colour orange, the same colour of the life jackets that became a beacon of hope. Through Catia's dynamic and stunning illustrations, we see how Ai Weiwei became the activist and artist he is today while proving the power of art within humanity.

The perfect way to introduce artist and activist Ai Weiwei to children, and a stunning gift for the young art-lovers in your life. Aan informative and powerful book.




The subject of this beautifully crafted book is artist Ai Weiwei and his powerful, thought-provoking and moving art pieces and art installations, and their meaning and impact on those who view them. The book focuses on one of Ai WeiWie's largest and most iconic pieces, entitled Safe Passage, which he created to highlight the plight, worldwide, of refugees. The artist used the Konzerthaus Berlin to create an installation featuring thousands of the bright orange life jackets that piled on the shores of Lesbos following a refuge rescue.

On the Tip of a Wave is visually stunning throughout. Illustrated by Catia Chien in waves of blue with a bold, orange effect set against it, it mirrors the impact that Ai WeiWei's Safe Passage must have had and so pays tribute to him.

The content is absolutely fascinating, detailing the story of Ai Wei Wei's early life, raised in a Chinese labour camp where "he found refuge by turning his dirt walls into art". Joanna Ho's gentle, lyrical narrative is wonderfully written - displaying an awe and reverence for the life and work of this unique artist. The illustrator evokes Ai Wei Wei's message and purpose with her delicate, emotional drawings.

This is an intricate and captivating non-fiction read with an enlightening subject matter and an author and illustrator who have perfectly captured what Ai Wei Wei symbolizes, in content and in style.

48 pages / Reviewed by Jennifer Caddick, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 7+


Other titles