Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Stranded Whale

The Stranded Whale
by Jane Yolen
illustrated by Melanie Cataldo
Candlewick Press, 2015. Picture Book.

Autumn has arrived in coastal Maine, and Sally and her brothers are walking home from school along the beach. As they worry whether they will make it home in time for supper, Sally discovers a beached whale struggling for life. She instantly takes action, soaking her sweater and sponging it against the giant creature. A crowd from town arrives to help push the whale back to sea, but their challenge is only amplified by the receding tide. The whale dies, with Sally caressing and comforting it during its final moments. Sally is heartbroken and frustrated by this seeming injustice, and her parents' consoling is little help. She falls asleep angry and hurt, but dreams of her whale friend, alive and happy.

The Stranded Whale is a deeply melancholic book that doesn't offer easy answers about loss and ensuing grief. It is beautiful, almost impressionistic in its illustrations of this seaside town and the enormous whale they try to save. Readers may relate to Sally's frustration, since she tried so hard and yet the whale still died. Life is often unfair, and this gorgeous story can help console those who are struggling with their shortcomings and limitations.

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