Song for a Whale
From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she's the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she's not very smart. If you've ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.
When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to "sing" to him! But he's three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?
Full of heart and poignancy, this affecting story by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly shows how a little determination can make big waves.
gorgeous and heart-warming read
SONG FOR A WHALE is a heart-warming middle grade story about being different and finding your place. Iris is deaf, and she goes to a public school where she is the only one who speaks American Sign Language (ASL). Well, another girl checked out a book about sign language and thinks she knows, but what she signs doesn’t make sense. Iris ends up feeling very isolated in school, unable to communicate with other students directly and having teachers who don’t understand her. At home, her mother and brother speak ASL, but her father doesn’t quite speak it well enough. Her grandparents are also deaf and sign, but her grandfather recently died, and her grandmother has been harder to reach.
When Iris sees a video at school about Blue 55, a whale whose song can’t be heard by other whales and thus is alone, she finds a deep connection. Iris sets out to understand more about Blue 55 and to develop a way to connect with him through developing a whale song that Blue 55 can understand. In many ways, she feels his situation deeply as her own. When she records a song for Blue 55, she sends it to the team who is trying unsuccessfully to tag him, suggesting that they play it for him to see if it will encourage him to stay and allow them to tag him. When the team agrees and invites her to stop by and tour their facilities if she ever happens to be in Alaska, Iris begins planning a trip, wanting to be there when they play her song to Blue 55. However, her parents won’t allow her to go.
When she brings it up to her grandmother, she begins to scheme with her. The trip also has particular meaning to her grandmother who had been planning an Alaskan cruise with Iris’s grandfather before he died.
What I loved: This book captures the feeling of being different and not belonging so beautifully, primarily through Iris but also in the sections told by Blue 55. With lyrical and imaginative prose, we are completely immersed in Iris’s life. The descriptions of her passions and the people around her leap off the page. Her deafness is one of many qualities Iris possesses and is portrayed so fully that readers can understand her world. This is an excellent book for people of many ages, with so many lessons for all of us and numerous themes that can spark important discussions for readers. Furthermore, the connections Iris has with her grandmother and brother- and those with her parents and classmates- help flesh out a heart-warming and full picture.
Final verdict: This is, ultimately, a beautiful story of loneliness and making unexpected connections that is full of heart. I highly recommend for readers of all ages looking for a gorgeous story of heartfelt journeys. Middle grade readers will definitely want to pick this one up!