Ice Whale

Jean Craighead George, illus. by John Hendrix. Dial, $17.99 (156p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3745-7
George returns to the northern Alaska setting of her Newbery-winning Julie of the Wolves in this expansive story, which the author's children, Twig George and Craig George, completed after her 2012 death. Spanning two centuries—from 1848 to 2048—the novel interlaces the stories and perspectives of a family of Yankee whaling captains; generations of an Yup'ik clan cursed after one of them inadvertently discloses the location of a pod of whales to greedy whalers; and Siku, a bowhead whale that shares a deep bond with the tribe. While the first narrative track sheds intriguing (and sobering) light on whaling strategies and history, the latter two are emotionally involving and expose the interconnectedness of humans and whales with eloquence and insight. In one of many hard-hitting moments, Siku's "grief was heard through the ocean" after he sees his mother killed by a harpoon. Jean Craighead George's knowledge of and talent for depicting the natural world are in full evidence in this immersive epic that combines themes of conservation and native mysticism. A powerful finale for the author and a fine tribute to her literary legacy. Ages 9–11. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/05/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
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