Jane Yolen,
The Stranded Whale
(Candlewick, 2015)

I enjoy some young-adult novels, but it's rare that I -- my youngest child is 17 -- will go out and buy an illustrated children's book.

An exception to that statement is any book penned by Jane Yolen, who has written so many good books for adults, young adults and children that I would never hesitate to curl up with her latest to read.

This one is special, because it deals with one of my favorite topics: whales. And, as Yolen is an honest sort, she doesn't sugarcoat the reality of the central leviathan in this tale.

Stranded Whale is obliquely about a massive sperm whale that beaches itself on a remote Maine beach in 1971. It is more directly about the three school-age siblings who find the helpless animal and do what they can -- all well-intentioned but ultimately fruitless efforts -- to save it.

They can't do much. Their efforts are limited mostly to soaking their sweaters in seawater to help keep the whale's skin and eyes wet. And one of them runs off to call for help -- remember, this is in the days before cellphones, and calling people sometimes required effort. But adults respond and come to the whale's aid ... but, seriously, there just isn't much they can do.

This story is not a feel-good yarn, nor should you expect a happy ending. It touches briefly but deeply on the emotional impact a creature in peril can have on a person, no matter how fleeting their interaction.

Illustrations by Melanie Cataldo suit the story neatly, with muted colors and a slight graininess to the art that reminds me of classic children's books from my youth.

This one is going on the shelf to share with my grandniece, once she's a little older.

book review by
Tom Knapp

17 October 2015

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new