The Stranded Whale
By Jane Yolen Illustrated by Melanie Cataldo
Published by Candlewick Press in 2015
According to the “Author’s Note” in the back of the book Yolen has again created a specific story with specific people, and in a specific place and time to convey to young readers something that happens about 2000 times a year worldwide.
It is the characters she created and their emotional responses to the sperm whale’s beaching that make this story alive, and elicit an emotional response in the reader.
Yolan chose to set this tale in 1971—a time prior to cell phones and to the highly capable and technically enabled Coast Guard children are familiar with in the 21st Century.
Three children find a vulnerable whale beached near their home. Despite their heroic efforts and those of the 1971 Coast Guard and volunteers the story ends sadly. The final pages of Yolen’s tale show us the children’s emotional responses to the tragedy. I believe readers will empathize with their sense of loss.
Yolen’s “Author’s Note” is also loaded with interesting factual information about whale beachings. My guess is that this information ties in with core curriculum standards in our school systems.
The Stranded Whale makes this information more than palatable. It makes learning about whales and beaching and rescues touching and memorable.