Allen & Unwin, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Bleak was the day and the wind whipped down when I and my sisters walked to town …
Surrounded by seabirds being buffeted every which way, wild waves crashing on the shore and bitten by a chill wind that blew their skirts high, turned their legs blue and made their hair fly like a brumby’s tail, three sisters make their way to the beach undaunted by nature’s fury. In fact they are delighting in it. But that soon turns to anguish when they spot a whale stranded on the high tide line.
Scarred old mariner, beached in hell,
Far from the cradling ocean swell,
Far from the peace of the ocean deep
Where ancient fugitives find their sleep.
Swept by the tide to its farthest reach,
Left with the kelp on the hard wet beach…
Dark as a demon, dull of eye
Waiting in silence to drift…or die
All day the girls battle to keep the whale alive, unperturbed by the weather and the waves soaking them to the skin. But as dark rolls in and the driving rain sends them home, they have to leave the whale to its fate. Even the cosy warmth of the fire doesn’t warm their hearts and their night is restless but dream-filled as the storm rages on. Next morning they hasten back to the beach and discover a miracle…
Written in the most poetic language and accompanied by the most evocative illustrations, Storm Whale took me right back to my childhood in a seaside town at the very south of the South Island of New Zealand – next stop Antarctica- and brought back haunting memories of storms with wild winds that crashed the waves onto the rocks and made for the most exciting times. While whales abounded, they didn’t become stranded on that part of the coastline although it was common on beaches not too far distant. This is a story that not only paints a different picture of the seaside as the benign summer holiday playground of many of our students but brings to life the fury and magnificence of Nature and the insignificance of even those as mighty as whales in her power.
The rhyming text suggest the ceaseless rhythm of the ocean and indeed, life itself, while both words and pictures give a subtle but strong message of respect and the need to appreciate, value and conserve.
A most moving book that will touch the reader on many levels.