________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 4 . . . . October 10, 2008


A Whale Tale. (Canadian Flyer Adventures; 8).

Frieda Wishinsky. Illustrated by Dean Griffiths.
Toronto, ON: Maple Tree Press, 2008.
83 pp., pbk. & hc., $6.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-897349-17-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-897349-16-8 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Nootko Indians - Juvenile fiction.
Whales British Columbia - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4


“I wish you could ride a whale,” said Emily. “My friend Trish saw whales last summer in British Columbia, and she brought me this book about them. Look at this picture!”

Emily picked up a book from her desk. She showed Matt a photograph of a whale leaping in the ocean.

Matt laughed. “Imagine riding a whale. It would be amazing!”

“It would be slippery. I wish I could see whales instead of going to Grandma’s cottage. Of course, there are no whales on her lake, just beavers.”

“I like beavers. They build terrific dams,” said Matt.

“But whales spout water like a fountain!” said Emily. She showed Matt a photograph of a whale
doing just that.

“That picture is awesome!” said Matt. “Maybe the magic sled could fly us to a whale adventure. Let’s go to your tower and check it out.”

Best friends Matt and Emily become a part of Canada’s past in a way no one else can! Through time travel, they get to meet legends from the past, experience history in the making, see remarkable feats of bravery, and become witnesses to groundbreaking events. On this, their eighth trip back in time, Matt and Emily will be living through similar occurrences in the year 1778, and as on many of their other trips, they will be  helping a new friend.

   When Matt and Emily arrive in Friendly Cove on the west coast of Canada, they immediately start searching for a Nuu-chal-nuth boy they saw canoeing a little too closely to a whale. Worried about his encounter with the whale, they are relieved when they see him on shore and in good spirits. The magic that brought Matt and Emily to Friendly Cove also allows them to understand the Nuu-chal-nuth language and so begins a friendship. The boy they are speaking to is Tuta, the nephew of Chief Maquinna. When Matt and Emily find Tuta on the shore, he is singing a happy song because the grey whale he was canoeing so closely to didn’t capsize his canoe. Grateful as he is though for his good fortune, Tuta is feeling frustrated, too, because his uncle, the Chief, won’t allow him to go on the next whale hunt. All the Chief asks Tuta to do is help with the potlatch celebration, and with the help of Matt and Emily, he does.

internal art

   Despite this small distraction, Tuta is still thinking about the next whale hunt and how he can be a part of it. After the celebration, Tuta devises a plan, which, if successful, will prove to his uncle that he is ready to hunt for a whale. Things don’t go as planned though because of the unexpected appearance of a baby grey whale and its protective mother, but Matt and Emily and Captain James Cook and his crew are nearby to lend a hand and a convincing word or two when Tuta needs it most!

   Each trip back in time leaves Matt and Emily wanting more though. After they fly back home to Glenwood from Friendly Cove, they have a quick bite to eat and then continue learning about the time period they just visited. They each read about the people and places they encountered and compile a top ten facts list. These two facts lists and a related three page question and answer section by the author are included in the book and provide readers with relevant background information pertaining to the story and Canada’s past.

   Each of the ten chapters in A Whale Tale includes one to two black and white illustrations. Realistic in appearance, they capture the highs and lows of Matt and Emily’s trip into the past. There is the near miss of a whale landing, the fun yet tiring dance lessons at the potlatch and the drama that unfolds on the beach when the Chief sees Matt and Emily playing with the sacred wolf mask. Dean Griffiths illustrations reflect the time and place of this story. The children are barefoot when they land in Friendly Cove, and they wear tops and bottoms woven with bits of cedar wood. The potlatch celebration is held in a long building called a longhouse which was built with two large totem poles in the front. At the potlatch, people are wearing hats decorated with whale motifs, and dancers can be seen wearing wolf masks and long capes.

   Frieda Wishinsky is the author behind the “Canadian Flyer Adventures” books. A former teacher presently living in Toronto, Frieda Wishinsky has written several books for young people including What’s the Matter With Albert? and A Quest in Time. And just like her main characters Matt and Emily, Frieda Wishinsky enjoys experiencing history, too, but she does it by reading history books and watching history movies.

   Illustrator Dean Griffiths was born and raised in Duncan, BC. He knew after reading Ironman #135 at the age of 12 that he wanted to become a comic book artist. Since this revelation, Dean has illustrated over a dozen books for young readers including The Patchwork House, That’s Hockey, Perfect Man, and Only a Cow. Today, Dean Griffiths continues to live in Duncan and enjoys spending his free time tubing and chasing after his cats.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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