The Whale Child
"You have family on land as you do in the sea. . . being a caretaker of the earth begins with taking care of the water that all life depends on."
Shiny is a whale child. One day his mother teaches him about the harm facing the world's oceans because of human carelessness. Shiny agrees to be turned into a boy by the ocean's water spirit so he can visit the land and alert people to these dangers. He meets Alex, a young Coast Salish girl who learns from Shiny that the living spirit of water exists in everything--glaciers, rivers, oceans, rain, plants, and all living creatures. Together the two travel the earth, confronting the realities of a planet threatened by an uncertain future. Inspired by Shiny's hope, humor, and wisdom, Alex makes the promise to become a teacher for future generations. She realizes that the timeless Indigenous value of environmental stewardship is needed now more than ever and that we must all stand up on behalf of Mother Earth.
Written and illustrated by Indigenous authors Keith Egawa and Chenoa Egawa, The Whale Child introduces children ages 7 to 12 to existing environmental issues with a message of hope, education, sharing, and action. Also included are resources for students and teachers to facilitate learning about Pacific Northwest Indigenous cultures and the environment.
After Shiny becomes human, he meets Alex and her mother, and he must teach Alex about the balance of the world and the ways in which humans are changing it with potentially dangerous consequences. They discuss pollution, extinction, and the human influences on these with a hopeful and positive view of the way humans still have a chance to stop these negative changes. As they travel and readers see Alex's questions, it teaches the reader in simple terms about what is happening in the world around them and why it matters.
What I loved: This book distills these topics into relatively simple terms to explain the need to help the planet and animals around us - even those that seem scary like mountain lions. The book is full of beautiful colored illustrations that really bring these themes to life for middle grade readers. I would recommend for younger middle grade readers, as the length of text and large illustrations are perfect for this age group. This would be a great book to explore in an educational setting with a fictional story with truths about the world around.
Final verdict: Overall, this is an interesting middle grade fantasy that explains environmentalism and the need to make changes to save the world around us. The lovely illustrations add to the appeal of this read that would be great to explore in the classroom or at home.