In this wordless picture book, handsome watercolor and gouache paintings tell a story of deep connection between animals and humans.
A boy and his dad are working together on a fishing boat when the boy notices a whale on the horizon. In series of underwater scenes, readers see the large mammal has become entangled in nets and ropes. The boy insists that his reluctant father help the whale. Jessica Lanan's double-page spread draws the viewer into the action, showing, on the left, the fisherman's eye reflecting the whale's image and, on the right, the whale's eye reflecting the humans. The connection is made, and the reader can tell the father feels compelled to rescue the animal. Armed with a small knife, he jumps into the cold water and courageously cuts the ropes. The spread devoted to the rescue is presented vertically (as is the final scene of the whale's initial entanglement) and appears as if animated, with the man's small figure shown in three different positions around the whale. Finally, the whale floats free and the man surfaces. His son tosses him a life preserver, in pleasing counterpoint to the whale's rescue.
Even the endpapers provide a satisfying coda, depicting both adult mammals close to their young (boy and man in front, whale and calf in back). The author's note includes facts on human involvement in whale entanglement, but warns readers against rushing to rescue whales--this is meant to be an environmental fable (like Mordicai Gerstein's The Boy and the Whale). The highly dramatic paintings, employing a palette of blues, browns and grays, are sure to stimulate a range of emotions, encouraging readers to return again and again. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer