Book review: The Fisherman and the Whale, by Jessica Lanan

Lanan, Jessica. The Fisherman & the Whale. Simon & Schuster, 2019. Unp. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-5344-1574-4. Ages 4-6. P9Q9

In this wordless story, a father takes a young boy, possibly his son, on a fishing trip where they discover a whale caught in ropes. Lush watercolors and gauche show the adventure above and below water as the man dives in to rescue the whale before the boy throws over a life preserver as the man swims back to the boat. In a superb finish, the whale leaps into the air before the ship heads back to shore in a sunset. An author’s note describes “purse seining” method of catching salmon and the problems of whales, porpoises, and dolphins becoming entangled in commercial fishing nets.

Verdict: The vivid communications between the boy and man are enhanced by the variety of perspectives, including the pair of eyes, one showing the whale in the human pupil and the reverse showing the two protagonists reflected in the whale’s pupil. A book that can be “read” over and over.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Boy and the Whale, by Mordicai Gerstein

Gerstein, Mordicai. The Boy and the Whale. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781626725058. Ages 5-8. P8Q10

A boy and his father discover a whale tangled in their only fishing net. The father suggests that they wait for the whale to die and then try to salvage the net. The boy, remembering when he almost drowned from being entangled in a net, disobeys his father, taking the family’s fishing boat, freeing the whale, and destroying the net in the process.  Caldecott Medal winner Mordicai Gerstein created luminous paintings that show warm sunlight bathing a poor village and contrasting dappled light shining through ocean waves, carrying a sense of hope for not only the whale, but for father and son.

Verdict: The traits of courage and empathy shine through this timely story. Be prepared to discuss the issues raised with child readers. Highly recommended for elementary school and public library collections.

September 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: The Whale, by Vita Murrow, illustrated by Ethan Murrow

Murrow, Vita. The Whale. Illus. Ethan Murrow. Candlewick, 2016. $17.99. 32p. 9780763679651. Ages 5-8. P8Q8

Murrow WhaleTwo searches for the legendary Great Spotted Whale, last seen 50 years ago, are shown in gray-toned pencil drawings that show the two children separately preparing for their quest before their boats collide. First they argue; then they see the whale, rebuild a boat, and return to the community after getting close to the whale. On their heroic return home, they find that their grandparents had originally seen the whale. Drawings of newspaper clippings fill in the background for this wordless picture book.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Whale in My Swimming Pool, by Joyce Wan

Wan, Joyce. The Whale in my Swimming Pool. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015. ISBN 978-0-374-30037-1. Unpaged. Ages 2-4 P9/Q8

Wan Whale in My Swimming PoolI like the way that the author/illustrator uses the words in the title as water from the whale’s spout.  In this funny story, a little boy tries to get into his pool but there is a whale in it.  The boy tells his mother of the problem but she is busy reading a book so she just reminds him to put on sunscreen.  I enjoy stories that have some adult humor because they make it fun for the adult to read them to the children.  The little boy tries to get the whale out of his pool by encouraging the whale to get into the neighbor’s pool because theirs is better.  He finally joins the whale in his pool by playing in his water spout.  The unexpected when the boy goes inside for a nap, only to find a bear in his bed.  The end papers at the beginning of the book have several cute color blocked whales, while the ones at the end have pictures of the bear snoring.  This is a great story to encourage children’s imagination.

October 2015 review by Melinda Dye.

Book review: The Storm Whale, by Benji Davies

Davies Storm WhaleDavies, Benji. The Storm Whale. Holt. 2013. $16.99. unp. 978-0-8050-9967-6. Ages 4-7:

In an isolated island home next to the ocean, Noi stays alone with six cats while his father works on a fishing boat. When the small boy finds a beached baby whale, he takes it home in his wagon and puts it in the bathtub. Finding Noi’s secret, the father understands that the boy is lonely but encourages Noi to accompany him to return the whale to deep water. The book is beautifully illustrated with charming caricatured drawings, but two of the messages might be inappropriate. First, although the father knows his son is lonely, he does nothing about solving the problem; and second, children should never be encouraged to remove beach creatures from their habitat, even though Noi’s actions are highly unlikely. P8Q5 December 2014 review by Nel Ward.