The Blue Whale by Jenni Desmond — Picture Book Recommendation
September 27, 2017
Author/Illustrator: Jenni Desmond
Publisher: Brooklyn, NY: Enchanted Lion Books, 2015
Genre: Picture book, NON-FICTION
Audience Age: 4-9
Themes/Topics: Whales, endangered species, reading
Opening Sentences: Once upon a time, a child took a book from a shelf and started to read. He read that the blue whale is a mammal of gigantic size and strength. It is the largest living creature on our planet.
Synopsis: Jenni Desmond’s THE BLUE WHALE is an entrancing, intriguing, informative non-fiction picture book in the form of a story – a totally identifiable story. “Once upon a time, a child took a book from a shelf and started to read.” Those words resonate within us, and, no doubt, within any child reading the book or being read to, as we see the child lying on his tummy on his bed, reading the book.
While completely factual in its information about the blue whale, it takes us inside the story in the person of the child who opens the book to read. The book the child is reading is the same one that is being read by the person who holds the actual book. Not only that, but the child is soon in the book interacting with the blue whale – in a way that seems natural and doesn’t detract from the facts being presented.
The facts themselves are given in terms a child can relate to, and with delightful illustrations that make them even more understandable. When we read “An average blue whale weighs around 160 tons, or about the same as a heap of 55 hippopotami,” the illustration shows the child sitting on top of a pile of hippos, each with a different facial expression. “A blue whale’s … mouth is so big that 50 people can stand inside it. Fortunately, blue whales don’t eat people.” The illustration shows the child standing at the edge of the whale’s mouth, looking at the 50 people crowded along the lower edge of the gaping open mouth.
The book has a wonderful circular ending, bringing us back to the child in his bed, now snuggled down asleep, while the whale’s tail fluke seems to wave goodnight.
I highly recommend this book. I discovered it serendipitously at the library, when looking for Jenni Desmond’s POLAR BEAR, which is written in a similar manner. I’m very glad I came upon this one.
Activities/Resources: You can see all of Jenni Desmond’s books, and get a glimpse of some of the illustrations of THE BLUE WHALE, at her website and there are links to interviews about her artistic process in this book and others here.
There is an excellent review and overview of the book at BrainPickings.
There are lots of whale- and dolphin-related activities for kids at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation website.
There are easy whale crafts at Artists Helping Children.
Here’s a more realistic blue whale to make, at Learn, Create, Love.
Availability: Readily available. Find a copy near you, or order one online from an independent bookstore – search Indiebound to find out where you can do that.
Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.”