Wednesday, January 8, 2014

IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE

Written by Julie Fogliano

Illustrated by Erin e. Stead

(Roaring Brook Press, 2013)

Waiting for a particular animal to show itself in nature can test anyone’s patience. It can be even more challenging for a young child. Just recently, I reread Jane Yolen’s classic Owl Moon about a young girl who treks out to the woods in the middle of the night to catch a glimpse of a wise bird. This time around, it is a boy who goes whale watching (from his living room window) with his dog.

If you want to see a whale

you will need a not-so-comfy chair

and a not-too-cozy blanket

because sleeping eyes can’t watch for whales

and whales won’t wait for watching

 

Author Fogliano presents several distractions that might make the boy miss the elusive whale. For instance, who would have ever thought that a rose would compete with the massive mammal? The radical juxtaposition makes it all the more memorable.

This book celebrates all the unexpected sightings before the [SPOILER ALERT] ultimate appearance of the humpback whale. Part of me didn’t want a whale to surface. Why not appreciate all the other things one identifies when senses are on high alert? Why not appreciate the non-sighting? One could argue that Fogliano does that AND coughs up the whale to boot.

Erin Stead’s illustrations keep the focus on the boy, the dog and whatever is currently in sight. The backgrounds include large blocks of white space and nautical blues and greens. Stead’s interpretation highlights the relationship between a boy and his dog above and beyond anything else...even the whale. Through art, she provides another important voice in this book.

Despite my quibble, readers will be satisfied with the ending as well as the journey. This is a quiet, delightful book to make young boys more aware of their senses and surroundings. If you want to see a different side of a boy, then read If You Want to See a Whale.

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