The Whales' Song

The Whales’ Song is one of those gorgeously artful books that are meant for children but appeal most strongly to adults.

Few grown-ups will be able to resist the ravishingly tender portraits of Lilly, the heroine of this story: Lilly with her face alight, sitting on Grandma’s lap and listening to stories about majestic whales. Lilly, her lovely halo of black curls framing her startled face when a curmudgeonly great-uncle insists that whales are good only for meat, blubber, bones, and oil. Lilly, sweetly yearning and vulnerable, crouched on the cliff in her nightgown, watching the whales leap and play in the moonlight.

Trouble is, the story of The Whales’ Song itself is as wispy and elusive as a moonbeam. Lilly’s loving grandmother remembers the awesome beauty of the whales she watched as a child. She tells Lilly that if you give the whales a special gift — a perfect shell, or a beautiful stone — the whales might return your love with a song.

Lilly longs to see and hear them too. One night, after she has dropped a yellow flower into the sea as a gift, she does see them. And she hears them call her name.

This seems like a frail response to the powerful longing many people have to communicate with the giant mammals. But the rapport between the old woman and the child is delightfully established in Gary Blythe’s realistic oil paintings, the whales are suitably impressive, and the tone of the narrative stops just short of the sentimental. B+

The Whales' Song
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