________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 33 . . . . May 5, 2017


Whale Child.

Caroll Simpson.
Victoria, BC: Heritage House, 2016.
32 pp., pbk., hc., epub & pdf., $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77203-163-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-77203-135-5 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77203-136-2 (epub), ISBN 978-1-77203-137-9 (pdf).

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Anita Miettunen.

* /4



Over the monstrous voice of Volcano, Big Sister heard the little girl holler. "I will come back to find you" Lost in all the noise, Big Sister's voice could not be heard to say, "I will be here."

      The story of Whale Child begins in a Pacific Northwest coastal village where, after a volcanic explosion, a little girl becomes separated from her big sister. Lost at sea in a canoe, the little girl is safely guided by a mother grey whale on her way to calving grounds in Mexico. After the mother whale's baby is born, the spirits of the new whale and the little girl unite:

Filled with the human spirit, the baby whale felt strong, happy, and determined. Whale Child—the spirit of the girl united with the baby whale—was filled with questions. She did not know which to ask first. "Why are you white when all other whales are grey?" she asked her new sister sprit. Leaping with joy, the baby white whale replied, "Because you make me special."

      Eventually, the baby whale guides the little girl back to her northern village where Big Sister declares:

"I will always take care of you!"

"Yes," said Whale Child. "And the Sprit of the Whale will take care of us."

internal art      Whale Child is another title in a series of "Coastal Spirit Tales" pictures books by author/illustrator Caroll Simpson, whose aim is to "celebrate the art and legends of the First Peoples of the Northwest Coast." Simpson, who is based in northern British Columbia, does not identify herself as Indigenous, although she has a long history of teaching young students about the culture of Pacific Northwest First Nations.

      The author/illustrator undoubtedly brings a passion to her subject matter. However, Whale Child would have benefitted from more thorough editing, art direction, and attention to book design and organization. The fictional narrative often wavers between points of view, and the main protagonist, the little girl, is a passive character who does not solve anything herself. It is difficult, therefore, to connect how the baby whale can feel strong, happy, determined, and special when she breathes in the little girl's spirit. For some characters, such as Big Sister, it is not always clear how they are essential to the narrative.

internal art      The artwork incorporates a variety of styles and colour palettes, and the spreads are not always composed with a clear focal point. The illustrations also vary in how consistently a character is drawn throughout the spreads. As well, the choice to use a larger, bold font for some words seems inconsistent. The most appealing illustrations appear at the end of the book in the supplementary nonfiction section as these pages incorporate more consistent design and harmony.

      Whale Child includes a significant nonfiction section with a focus on grey whale migration and facts. However, it is unclear why some of the illustrations and information boxes (e.g., about cacti, a seahorse, a sailfish, the northern lights) are highlighted. Although these subjects appear in background illustrations in the main spreads, it seems random to choose some of them for the nonfiction section when they are not integral to the fictional narrative. As well, facts are not always logically organized (e.g., the information about grey whales is not all presented sequentially). It is also confusing that facts about a Tufted Puffin are not matched with the correctly illustrated puffin species. Similarly, the puffin image on the front cover is not that of a Tufted Puffin. This slip is surprising, given an earlier book by Simpson by the same publisher also discusses Tufted Puffins but includes the correctly illustrated species. More thorough fact checking and referencing would have leant more credibility to the non-fiction section. Whale Child would have also been a more solid choice for extending classroom learning if it had included an explanation of the First Nations' clothing and designs that are incorporated in the book.

Not Recommended.

Anita Miettunen is a writer based in Vancouver, BC. She is completing a Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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