I love World Book Day as an opportunity to celebrate the joy of reading and rejoice in the wonder of children’s books and yesterday was no exception. I sadly didn’t dress up as a favourite character, unlike my niece who thoroughly enjoyed dressing up as Perdita from 101 Dalmatians, but I am looking forward to getting hold of Rainbow Rowell’s Kindred Spirits which is one of this year’s promoted titles.
Instead to celebrate I thought I would share some favourite whale-related books. I grew up fairly obsessed with the sea, loved being near it and finding out about rockpools, birds and animals in and around the sea. I was desperate for many years to be a Marine Biologist working for Greenpeace until I realised that I would have to put my head underwater which I hated. In particular, whales have fascinated me since primary school. For many years my Granddad sponsored a killer whale called S.O.D for me which amused us all greatly. (S.O.D is short for scratches on dorsal as in fin). S.O.D lived off the coast of Canada and it sounded like lived a very peaceful existence from my regular newsletters.
Over Christmas I watched in dismay as beautiful sperm whales got repeatedly washed onto the coast and I kept thinking about these books so I thought I would share these beautiful stories about these majestic, gentle creatures.
:: The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson. Julia Donaldson writes so beautifully for children with fantastic fun and bounce. We are big Donaldson fans and are often found singing songs inspired by Room on the Broom, reciting the Gruffalo or not picking up sticks in the park for fear of displacing Stickman. The Snail and the Whale is a book that I love and have bought for some of my favourite small people. A tiny snail wants to see the world so hitches a lift on the whale. On their dream journey they go past beautiful scenes of icebergs and jungles showing the beauty and vastness of the world. It is a lovely book for children because the illustrations are so vibrant and they love identifying with the small snail.
“And she gazed at the sky, the sea, the land, The waves and the caves and the golden sand. She gazed and gazed, amazed by it all, And she said to the whale, ‘I feel so small.’
It is a story most of all about friendship and how the smallest creatures can have a big impact on the world around them.
:: The Storm Whale by Benji Davies.
Noi is a boy after my own heart, after discovering a whale washed up on the beach he keeps it at home in this bath. The sense of relief that Noi discovers at having this little whale as a friend is palpable in the book.
“He told stories about life on the island. The whale was an excellent listener.”
The Storm Whale is a gem of a book and has won countless numbers of awards for its beautiful pictures and poignant story. Benji Davies is also worth following on Instagram to see his beautiful illustrations.
:: Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo
To complete my whale triptych, I’m including a book which is incredibly dear to me. Set in the Isles of Scilly, Why the Whales Came is a story about Gracie and Daniel, who build up an unlikely friendship with the Birdman, and about the islands themselves. Steeped in the landscape of the islands you get a sense of the freedom that the children have on the islands and the wildlife – particularly birds and fish. At the heart of the story is a curse linked to some Narwhals which lends an otherworldly air of mystery and folklore, ghostships alongside the stories of wreckers. It is interesting on themes of acceptance and social isolation in small communities as well.
The attention to details in this book is gorgeous and I always get a thrill reading the book with it featuring places I know so well like Rushy Bay on Bryher. I remember seeing the houses on Samson with their piles of limpets outside their doors as the book describes.
“If you ever do go to the Isles of Scilly, go over to Samson and look round for yourself. The old ruined cottages are still there; a mound of limpet shells outside each one; and you will find the well full of water. No one lives there, so you’ll have only the terns and the black rabbits for company. You’ll be quite alone.”
I was fairly obsessed with this book for many years, I read and re-read it as a child. I met Michael Morpurgo on a very windswept day at Bryher’s fete when I was about 10 and feeling quite seasick after the most terrifying boat ride of my life – absolutely huge waves throwing us from side to side in a tiny boat. He was charming and sweet when he signed a piece of paper to stick in my book in the driving rain. “To Lara, thank you for reading it more than once….”
Do you have a favourite book which features whales? I would love to know if so to help continue to expand my whale reads. What books are you currently enjoying this World Book Day?
For more grown up books about whales, I am looking forward to reading Philip Hoare’s The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea which is on my to read pile. He also did a great list of books featuring whales in the Guardian which is worth a look.
A photo posted by Lara? (@inbetween_day) on