It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts
These two picturebooks portray two young girls who are able to deal with overwhelming loss with courage, wisdom, and strength of spirit. There is also grace in these pages as these brave girls struggle to find meaning amidst sorrow and life’s end.
The Stranded Whale
Written by: Jane Yolen Illustrated by: Melanie Cataldo
Published by: Candlewick Press, 2015
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me. Junior Library Guild Selection.
A young girl named Sally is walking along the beach on her way home with her two brothers Martin and Josh. It is September 1971 and the siblings wanted to go home in time for supper, when Sally spotted something huge washed away in the sand.
In the Author’s afterword, Yolen noted that she deliberately set the story in the 70s to avoid the complication of modern Coast Guard techniques or even the availability of cell phones that would allow help to come in sooner, or even the eventual presence of TV reporters who would have made the efforts public.
It’s important for the story that despite their best efforts, the children have to watch the whale die. Because the truth is that the majority of such strandings do end in death, and while it seems like an awful tragedy to anyone witnessing it, about 2,000 whales are found on beaches every year.
This young girl with a heart as wide as the sea dropped everything to attend to this huge creature who smelled of deep water, left behind on the shore by the ocean. While her brothers ran off to call for help, she did what she could to keep the whale soaked with their sweaters dipped in water.
Despite the futility of the efforts, Sally did all that she possibly could to let the whale know that she isn’t alone as she waits for the ocean to bring her back home. An act like this takes heroic courage and utter selflessness, for which Sally and her two brothers received a medal; a recognition that while she appreciated, she would return in a heartbeat if it means having the whale breathe again.
Written and illustrated by: Stian Hole
Published by: Eerdmans Books For Young Readers, 2014
Borrowed through inter-library loan. Book photos taken by me. Spirituality & Practice 10 Best Spiritual Children’s Books of 2014.
This picturebook is unlike any I have read over the past several months – and that is saying a lot because I read over 300 picturebooks in 2015. It all made sense when I learned that Stian Hole is a Norwegian author and illustrator who has won several awards such as the Bologna Ragazzi and Batchelder Awards.
There is the unusual blend of hyper-realism and the otherworldly in the pages as the reader gets introduced to Anna with the free spirit, and a restless father with the mournful gaze. As the father tries to get Anna to hurry up, Anna becomes even more whimsical as she notices elephants, coffee pots, and birds “writing cursive letters in the sky.”
As one reads on, it becomes clear that much of the father’s despair has to do with Anna’s mother passing away. While physically not around, her presence is too keenly felt by father and child (see image below), especially as Anna asks questions about God, the afterlife, and what heaven must be like for her mother:
What is unique about this story is how Anna eases her father’s pain – instead of the other way around – with her meandering musings, her energy that can not be contained, her capacity for wonder as she listens to the sea with many voices:
Anna is a luminous soul – it is her gentle questioning, her random ruminations that ultimately brought her and her father to a quiet place of healing.
I am nearly finished reading Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and hope to begin reading Truthwitch by Susan Dennard this week.