Working Title Press, 2017
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Under the shadow of the great harbour bridge a little southern right whale is born. For weeks it stays and plays with its mother getting stronger for the long journey south to the Antarctic waters, delighting the people of Sydney who hadn’t seen a pair like this for many years. But one day a ferry’s motor startles Fluke and he dives deep to the bottom of the water where it is dark and murky and he can no longer hear his mother calling.
The people of Sydney begin an anxious search for him knowing that without her protection he will be easy prey for a shark…
Based on actual events, this is a charming story illustrated in a palette as soft and gentle as both the text and the events themselves. Like the humpbacks that are so prevalent down the Humpback Highway at the moment, southern right whales – so-called because early whalers believed them to be the ‘right’ whale to catch because they were large, slow-moving, rich in oil and blubber and floated when they were killed – were hunted almost to extinction in the early 20th century and so the appearance of mum and bub in the harbour brought both joy and hope. The endpapers provide a thumbnail sketch of these wonderful creatures, adding an extra dimension to the book.
Now that whale-hunting has taken on a whole new meaning and with seeing a whale in the wild on many bucket lists making it a sustainable tourist industry for many little coastal towns, learning about them through stories like Fluke can only bring a greater awareness and help to guarantee their revival and survival. The whalers were an important part of our coastal history and settlement, making them an important part of the history curriculum but unlike a generation ago, their activities can now be scrutinised through several lenses as students discuss and debate the “rightness” of their endeavours. The use of books like Fluke would bring another perspective to a webquest.
Teachers’ notes are available