CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 17. . . .January 3, 2014
The Boy and the Whale is a simple story about a boy who helps a whale free itself from a fishing net and is later rewarded when the whale rescues the boy after he gets dragged out to sea.
The boy is an independent only child who ventures out onto the sea by himself every day, a situation that creates perfect conditions for adventure. One day, he hears an usual sound and goes to investigate. He finds a thrashing whale trapped in a net. The boy cuts the whale free, and it jumps over his boat and swims away. One stormy day, the boy is dragged out to sea by a large fish while fishing by the shore. He is too exhausted to swim back once the fishing line snaps. His cries for help are drowned by the sounds of the ocean. All of a sudden, he is lifted up and out of the water. The whale returns the boy to shore.
Young readers will enjoy the adventure and animal-human friendship that are central to the story. Parents and educators will appreciate the age-appropriate language and sweet moral of the story. Adults will also find the story somewhat predictable. The moment the boy frees the whale from the fishing net, it is very obvious that the whale will soon return the favour. While this does not preclude adults from enjoying the story, it might make it harder for this book to compete with some of the more whimsical, inventive picture books.
The beautiful watercolour illustrations are the highlight of The Boy and the Whale. Moniz exploits the gorgeous colours of the seaside to create soft, inviting images that dominate each page. The light blues of the water and gentle oranges of the sun-filled sky are very appealing. Young readers will not be frightened by the arrival of a massive whale in any of the images as the subdued colours make all of the illustrations delightful.
Well-used double-page spreads help to convey the size of the whale and the ocean. Moniz wisely uses these large images to communicate the difference in size between the whale and the boy, and the ocean and the boy. Most of the illustrations are framed, with individual sea creatures decorating the white border on each page. There is the occasional full-bleed image which helps to immerse the reader in the scene. It is hard to find any fault with these perfect illustrations.
The text is curled on the page, almost mimicking the curve of a wave. While this is a nice touch, it competes with the illustrations for attention, particularly during the first reading. It is much less distracting during subsequent readings.
The Boy and the Whale is a picture book best shared with preschool and early primary students. It will particularly appeal to children who love stories about humans bonding with wild animals or children who love the ocean.
Sophia Hunter is a teacher-librarian at Crofton House School in Vancouver, BC.
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