When you find a child that’ll be far enough. And when you find him, tell him all I’ve told you, what we whales all know and people refuse to understand. tell him it’s our last chance and their last chance. And you must make sure it’s a child you tell The old ones are greedy…The young ones will listen and understand. Just like they saved me, they can save the world (34).
This Morning I Met a Whale by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Christian Birmingham
Published by Walker
Whilst out birdwatching, Michael finds a stranded bottle-nose whale alone in the Thames River. As Michael draws closer to the whale he finds not only can the whale speak but he has also come with an important message. He shows Michael familiar scenes of dying whales, turtles and birds caught in fishing nets, orangutans being hunted, children dying of starvation and countries at war. When Michael goes to school he writes the story of the whale and what it has told him but no-one believes it is true until the news breaks that there really is a whale beached in the Thames. With his classmates Michael rushes to help the whale and finds that despite every effort the whale is ready to risk his life to ensure his messages are acted upon.
This short story, only 81 pages, is captivating and beautifully illustrated by Birmingham who brings the whale’s warnings into soft, child friendly focus. Use this book as a stand alone story or even better use it to:
- Ask the children which problems, identified by the whale, they think they can help. Research charities that the children can support and that may already have teacher resources you can use. For example, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) have child friendly resources here and The Jonah Project provides a World of Whales kit for teachers in New Zealand.
- Use the story for creative writing. This story was based on a real whale stranded in the Thames. Let the children read some news stories and use them as inspiration for a creative writing piece.
- Pretend you are an animal with an important message what would you say and who would you tell? This could easily turn into a drama piece supporting a habitats unit for example.
He wasn’t just telling me. He was taking me round the world, round his world and showing me.
Michael promises the whale that he will spend his whole life helping to stop these atrocities. Showing children the effects charities have and the effects their efforts will have should turn any disheartenment they have into positivity. We can all heed and act upon what Morpurgo’s whale has told us.
The Longest Whale Song by Jacqueline Wilson
Illustrated by Nick Sharratt
Published by Corgi
After having a baby, Ella’s mum falls into a coma and Ella is left with her new step father. Learning about whales for a school project becomes a much needed distraction as Ella finds herself confused by the relationship she has with her stepdad, her real dad, her new baby brother and friends at school. As she learns about whale song and the incredible fact that one humpback whale was recorded singing non-stop for 22 hours she wonders if there is anything she can do to awaken her mum. Can a sound recording of a whale and an iPod do the trick?
There are lots of whale facts in this book and indeed the book ends with a whale quiz to ensure the reader has been paying attention! Wilson is an amazingly popular writer with 9-12 year olds and she is often criticised as having very similar characters and situations in her books. Her characters tend to be a little young and immature – insecure about friendships, appearances and academic ability – and whilst most of us identify with this I would like her characters to be more rounded and ‘useful’. Ella finds out that lots of whales have been killed due to hunting but there is no mention of pollution. Wouldn’t it have been interesting to have Ella reject her step dad relying on ready meals because of her worry that the packaging will end up in the ocean or telling her real dad that she doesn’t want one guinea pig because it would get lonely and so she needs to have two or even better say that there was too much going on at home to be able to look after an animal. Kids have good ideas, they demonstrate knowledge so I think Ella could have done the same.
I would use this book in a school book club – it is a little lengthy (314 pages) and repetitive at times but there are enough issues to get conversations flowing and for the Jacqueline Wilson fans they will simply lap it up.
Illustration by Nick Sharratt
Geronimo Stilton: Save the White Whale! by Geronimo Stilton
Illustrations by Sara Copercini (pencils), Riccardo Sisti (ink) and Chrisitian Aliprandi (colour)
Published by Scholastic
Geronimo Stilton, publisher of The Rodent’s Gazette, decides he needs a holiday and he invites his friends to the Bay of Whales. But, oh no! It turns into the worst vacation ever because it is not at all like he remembered. It is dirty and polluted and he can’t seem to do anything right. But, when a rare white humpback whale is beached on the shore Geronimo and his friends jump into action and help get him back out to sea. Deciding to do more, Geronimo uses his newspaper to start a petition and declare the Bay of Whales a protected natural marine park. And before long the rubbish is cleaned up, the polluting factories are closed down and the bay is returned to how it used to be.
Children adore Geronimo Stilton books. Save the White Whale is #45 in the series and as a librarian I struggle to keep up with demand. This is a really good series. The attention to detail, from the use of colour and fonts to the extra information, games, maps and drawings make these excellent value for money (particularly if your child is a speedy reader and yells ‘I’m finished’ after a few minutes). There is even an extract from Moby Dick and information about Herman Melville. Intelligent and fun reads for children – they are definitely worth checking out of the library.
I watched Elisabetta Dami, the author, give a speech and her love for her character Geronimo and her love for children is really the secret behind the success of these books. Dami says that it the positive, universal values that appeal to children: respect to nature; elders; world peace; honesty; sincerity and co-operation that is the secret. She says that she never tells children she is the person who writes the books because she respects their dreams. You can see the speech here: https://youtu.be/4I1wT767k24
Lots of information delivered in a very colourful, easy to read format