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Deep

Deep

Deep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deep

Stephen Hogtun

Bloomsbury, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781526610683

“Go my little one, swim free,” she whispered.
“I’ll always be waiting here . . .

When a tiny whale calf is born, his mother raises him to the surface to take his first breath. She guides him as he grows, until he is strong enough to swim at her side, and they set off together on a great journey across the oceans.  One day, the time will come for the grown calf to set out on his own . . . but wherever he goes and whatever he does, his mother will be waiting for him and sending her song of love across the oceans.

With illustrations as evocative as the text, this is a story of a mother’s enduring love as she protects and guides her baby until her job is done and he is able to swim free and independently – much like that of a human mum. In fact much of the whale’s learning and adventures mirror that of  the human experience and young readers will recognise this and perhaps be surprised by it, opening up discussion of the parallels and differences between mothers and their children in the animal and human environments..

Despite, or perhaps because of, their size, little ones are always fascinated by stories of whales, particularly those lucky enough to see them often on the whale highway, so this is a beautiful, gentle must-have addition to the collection.

Gigantic

Gigantic

Gigantic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gigantic

Rob Biddulph

HarperCollins, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780008413439

A mulberry sky full of flashes and rumbles

An ocean alive as it flashes and tumbles

And there, ‘neath the waves of a sunny Atlantic,

There lives a blue whale and his name is Gigantic.

But Gigantic is the smallest whale in the pod, constantly taunted and tormented by his big brother Titan and his friends,. But  when Titan finds himself in trouble after another bout of teasing Gigantic and his best friend Myrtle the Turtle, he learns that sometimes you don’t have to be big to be mighty. 

The message in this story is quite clear – you can be tiny and tough – and young readers will probably have stories of their own to share about when being a kid really has its advantages. But it also reminiscent of the fable The Lion and the Mouse, so this could be an opportunity to introduce them to that and other fables by Aesop to show how stories have been used to teach such lessons for centuries. Investigating the stories and their meanings, and even extending  that to fairy tales which were also essentially didactic tales of good versus evil, can help young students start to develop their critical thinking skills as they learn to read between and beyond the lines, rather than just along them. Asking themselves about the key purpose of the author’s writing – to persuade, inform, entertain or reflect – and then unpacking the underlying intent helps them interpret and assess information sources as they mature. 

So, even though this is an entertaining and engaging story just as it stands, it has the potential to broaden the reader’s horizons far beyond the depths of the Atlantic. 

Charlie’s Whale

Charlie's Whale

Charlie’s Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie’s Whale

Libby Gleeson

Hannah Somerville

Lothian Children’s, 2022 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780734420886 

Charlie loved the sea, and all the creatures that lived within it- seashells and seahorses, sharks and stingrays, crabs and crayfish. He loved the gentle tickly waves and those that crashed and trembled. But most of all, Charlie loved whales- minke whales, orcas, beluga whales and humpbacks, sperm whales and right whales, and especially the great blue whale. He loves to read about them, research them on the internet and play with his toy whale and imagine… But most of all, he wants to see one.  Will his patience, persistence and perseverance pay off?

As the humpback highways of our east and west coasts reach their peak as over 30 000 whales make their way north to warmer waters to breed,, many, like me, will have been privileged to see these amazing creatures, and, just like Charlie will have waited in anticipation and then been overwhelmed with joy.  For something that appears for just a few seconds, maybe as it breaches or just sends a plume of spray into the air, it gives immense pleasure and all the waiting is worth it as a lifelong memory is made.  As well as being a story about waiting for a dream to come true, it is also one about having the patience to wait for something so fleeting, particularly in this world of instant gratification and click and collect.

Libby Gleeson’s words are lyrical, and Hannah Somerville’s illustrations are almost ethereal as they combine to make a story that is as magical as the whales themselves. 

 

Stardiving

Stardiving

Stardiving

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stardiving

Andrew Plant

Ford Street, 2022

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781922696021

In the sunlit waters, baby Fluke is content to swim languidly among the rest of the sperm whale pod, occasionally rising to the surface to breathe. But as he does so, he is joined by a pod of dolphins who leap and cavort far above the surface, teasing him to join them.

“Come up and see the sky”, they say to which Fluke says he can see the sun.  “The sun’s great, but have you seen the stars?” 

And Fluke begins to wonder and daydream…until he is given some advice from Cachalot, the great bull whale, that sends him on a journey of discovery that teaches him more than he can have imagined.

Put Andrew Plant’s name on the cover of a book and I’m there! Whether it’s The Poppy, Sparkor any of the others that I’ve read and reviewed over the years, I know I will be in for a beautifully illustrated, lyrically written story that will reach deep. Of them all, Stardiving  has gone the deepest as Fluke learns as much about himself as he does about the stars that are in his own environment, without even having to learn to leap and leave his natural habitat.  As Fluke discovers the stars that twinkle and shine far below in the ocean’s depths, a place where the dolphins can’t ever go, he begins to understand what Cachalot means when he says, “You are not even yourself yet. Why do you want to be something else?”  That, like the ocean, he has hidden depths yet to explore…

Plant’s stunning illustrations take the reader into an unknown world, one inaccessible to most humans. one that even television images from deep-diving submersibles can’t portray accurately as the calm and serenity and the being-in-the-moment-ness has to be experienced; yet one that, for all its mystery, is as deserving and needy of preservation as the shallower waters above because what happens on top impacts what happens beneath.  Just as our personal experiences shape who we are, as they did for Fluke – a theme to explore in itself – so too is the ocean an integrated, holistic environment.  And while Plant doesn’t touch on pollution, habitat destruction and so forth, it is there in his dedication, reminding the reader that this story has as many layers as the ocean itself.

To all the eco-warriors who faced down the whalers; to the scientists who study and advocate for our oceans; to the kids who fight the scourge of plastic…

Extensive teachers’ notes which include an introduction to the creatures that Fluke sees, enable this book to become a journey of discovery for the reader as much as it was for the baby whale. 

 

The Lost Whale

The Lost Whale

The Lost Whale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Whale

Hannah Gold

Levi Pinfold

HarperCollins, 2022

320pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9780008412944

Rio is lost – both physically and emotionally.  

He has been sent from London to Los Angeles to stay with his grandmother while his mother is in hospital trying to recover from her chronic mental illness. But the tiny, quiet seaside town of Ocean Grove is so different from busy London; and so is his grandmother’s house – so much bigger than their tiny city flat, especially when he is to sleep in his mother’s childhood bedroom.

As if that weren’t enough, not only does he scarcely know his grandmother who is all shiny jumpsuits, sharp elbows and hard angles and whose hugs are not the deep, warm snuggly type he is used to, but he believes that if he had just tried harder and done more he could have prevented his mother’s downward slide into the psychiatric hospital.  At first,  Rio shuts everyone and everything out, unable to do anything but think about his mother and fears for her safety if he is not there.  After all, he’s been her carer for most of his 11 years. He is consumed by guilt if he relaxes or has fun, or even feels at peace. He is fixated of fixing here, despite being so far away, and when he discovers her childhood sketches of a grey whale named White Beak he hatches a plan that will surely save her, one made even more possible when he at last makes a friend in Marina who is passionate about the whales that migrate past Ocean Beach each year and whose dad happens to own a whale-watching business.  

After his own incredible encounter with White Beak, Rio is even more determined but then the reports of her being sighted as she journey s south to the lagoons of Mexico stop. Rio is determined to find her  because White Beak and his mother become one and the same person in his mind, and he and Marina hatch an audacious plan…

As with Gold’s debut novel, The Last Bear  this is a story  that stays in the mind long after the final page has been turned, and as with that story, it is a journey of discovery for the child as much as the focus animal. Rio is so used to being the grown-up, the responsible one, that he has to learn to forge relationships with his grandmother, Marina and her father and to be able to trust others to have his mother’s interests at heart, accepting that he can’t fix everything by himself. But the parallel story about the life and times of the world’s whales, whatever species, and the perils they face as their habitat is threatened is equally important.  It could easily have been set in coastal New South Wales about the humpback highway.  

This is one for independent readers who are seeking a well-written story that has substance and authenticity, but it would also make an excellent class read-aloud.  

 

The Voyage of Whale and Calf

The Voyage of Whale and Calf

The Voyage of Whale and Calf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Voyage of Whale and Calf

Vanessa Pirotta

Samantha Metcalfe

CSIRO Publishing, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781486315109

In the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef,  Whale prepares to give birth to her first baby.  In the 12 months since she first got pregnant, she’s swum thousands of kilometres from the freezing waters of Antarctica – a return journey she will make when Calf is big enough.  The baby is born tail first, weighing as much as a small car, tiny compared to its mum who is as big as a bus but ginormous compared to a human baby.

This is just the start of a remarkable annual migration as as the Antarctic winter starts to lose its grip, both mother and baby head south to the rich feeding grounds of the Southern Ocean.

Written by a wildlife scientist with particular expertise in collecting whale snot, this is an intriguing tale of where and why these magnificent creatures are going as they enchant us with their majestic antics of breaching and tail-slapping as they move up and down the Humpback Highways of both our east and west coasts.

Humpback Highways

Humpback Highways

Brought back from the brink of extinction after relentless unchecked whaling, this is an intriguing introduction to these creatures that will inspire young readers to want to know more  so that they become more than just seasonal tourist attractions. Both the information pages and the extensive teaching notes offer the opportunity to investigate further, both the life and life cycle of the humpback but also the other marine creatures it shares those icy waters with.  Because it is the annual migration of the whales that particularly puts them in our spotlight, there is also scope to investigate where, why and how other creatures migrate. particularly such great distances or even to find out why a person would devote their professional life to investigating whale snot!

As usual, CSIRO Publishing have given us another superb read, one that asks more questions than it answers, and to the curious mind of the child, that is a perfect book!

 

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

Beryl Young

Sakika Kikuchi

Greystone Books, 2021

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781771645737 

As the “humpback highway” gathers momentum and more and more of our young readers have the privilege of seeing these majestic creatures, this is a timely release of the story of a humpback whale and her calf and how they bond and learn, grow and change and how that process parallels the development of the child. Both baby and calf have mothers who keep them safe and nurture them, while other natural-instinct behaviours also mirror each other such as blowing bubbles and blowing a plume, shouting and singing and frolicking in water.

Beautifully illustrated, this is a charming story of two not normally viewed together, answering the child’s questions as well as offering a new wondrous perspective of these magnificent mammals.