CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 12. . . .November 21, 2014
Winter, a little Orca whale, became separated from his pod after following a school of fish. Poor Winter gets into many misadventures before being rescued by a kindly dolphin and finally catching his mother’s scent and finding his way home.
Winter the Lost Whale is a difficult book to categorize. It appears to be written for younger children, yet it contains difficult words like “skyhopped” and “breached” and “transient”, words that are not adequately explained with either text or illustration. As far as formatting goes, the first few pages start off well with clear text and lots of white space. As the story progresses, however, the text is either wordy or jumps around on both the text pages and the illustrations to the point that the words often get lost, thereby losing some of the meaning of the story.
The watercolour illustrations, done by April Conchie, are quite lovely and complement the text well, showing the beautiful greens and blues of the West Coast, but there are times that extraneous detail is added for no purpose. I question why, for example, several animals are grouped together on page 21 – bears, deer and whale – yet they have little to do with the action of the story. The cover illustration is the same – is it often that canoeists will be out on the water and see a buck, a sea lion, an eagle, a dolphin and a whale all at the same time? The Orca illustrations with page numbers on the bottom of the text pages are a nice touch and seem to unite a story that is, at times, disjointed.
There is no disputing that both the author and illustrator are familiar with the West Coast of Canada and its wildlife; however, the book needs some careful editing of both text and illustration to make the book either useful as a teaching tool or as a children’s story. It’s difficult to tell whether the author wanted the book to be primarily factual, or more of a children’s story. It takes a skilled storyteller to meld both and not make the story too cute (the dolphin and whale both speak in Winter The Lost Whale), or too factual (“as he was passing between Campbell River and Quadra Island he saw a pod of transient whales”).
This self-published book would make a nice gift for someone visiting the areas mentioned in the story, but it will need a professional editor to be successful beyond its territory.
Jill Griffith is the Youth Services Manager at Red Deer Public Library in Red Deer, AB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.