Review of A Whale of the Wild

A Whale of the Wild 
by Rosanne Parry; illus. by Lindsay Moore 
Intermediate    Greenwillow    336 pp.    g 
9/20    978-0-06-299592-6    $17.99 

The whale of the title could apply to either of two narrators. Vega, a late-adolescent orca whale, is just coming into her own as a wayfinder. The alternating voice is that of her younger and impulsive brother Deneb. Their family is part of the Southern Resident Killer Whale Community that lives in the Salish Sea, an area of stunning ecological richness and diversity in the Pacific Northwest. The community is threatened by water pollution, noise pollution, climate change, and reduced populations of Chinook salmon. When there’s an earthquake with its resulting tsunami, Vega and Deneb become separated from their pod. Parry (A Wolf Called Wander) presents orca life convincingly, using fresh language. Tides are Push and Pull. Directions are warmward and coldward. Echolocation is click-stream. Connection between family members is maintained by the repeated reassurance, “I’m beside you,” a refrain that becomes increasingly heartbreaking as the characters try to deal with the fracturing of their world. The story contains gracefully integrated information on such varied topics as the eel (“all teeth and patience”) and the poison taste of an oil spill, without ever losing narrative momentum or emotional drive. Back matter gives clear explanations of terms (krill are “pink, opaque, and the size and weight of a paper clip”), suggestions for further reading, and practical tips for young readers on how to help save this precious environment. Detailed black-and-white illustrations beautifully support a powerful portrait of nature under threat.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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