The Boy and the Whale

Abelardo is accustomed to watching the sea--he's the son of a fisherman, after all. One day he spots a whale, unmoving, in the distance. He alerts his father, and they jump into their small motorboat and head for the animal. It's alive, but snared in their fishing net. Father and son despair, each for his own reason: Abelardo's father has lost a net, on which his livelihood depends; Abelardo fears for the whale's life. Underwater, while observing the captive animal, he remembers, "I had been tangled in a net once, too. I almost drowned. Papa saved me."

They return to shore so that Abelardo's father can borrow a net. He cautions his son, "Don't do anything foolish"--happily, among the most disobeyed orders in children's literature. Abelardo takes the boat back to the whale and hacks at the net with his fishing knife. "When I looked again into the whale's eye, all I saw was my own reflection," he thinks as he works, and the reader will understand his urgency.

In The Boy and the Whale, Mordicai Gerstein conjures Abelardo's experience in the water with gorgeous blues in countless color combinations, swept and pulled by paintbrushes of varying bristles. When Abelardo finally frees the whale, Gerstein is hinting, as he did in his 2004 Caldecott-winning The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, that there's a time to break rules. As his father says of Abelardo's heroism at book's end, "It was incredibly foolish!... And it was very brave." --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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