Swimming with the Whales

Ella Thorp Ellis, Author
Ella Thorp Ellis, Author Henry Holt & Company $14.95 (194p) ISBN 978-0-8050-3306-9
Mass Market Paperbound - 178 pages - 978-0-449-70456-1
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Vivid, National Geographic-like descriptions of South American wildlife add an extra dimension to this first novel about an eighth-grade boy facing tough decisions. Paolo, who dreams of swimming with the whales, has no desire to leave his Argentine coastal village, but he is being pressured by his father to go to school in San Francisco, where Paolo's mother now lives. Hurt that his father seems so eager for him to go away, Paolo seeks consolation from best friend Luis and from Sarah, an American girl spending a year in the village with her family. However, the two confidants are preoccupied with problems of their own. Sarah resents having been dragged away from her California friends and a chance to try out for the Junior Olympics, and Luis fears he will have to quit school to care for his ailing mother. Relating Paolo's reverence for the natural world around him, Ellis deftly parallels animal instincts with human behavior; Paolo's awe is as clearly defined as his reluctance to migrate north like the whales. Although Sarah comes across as somewhat plastic, tensions between all of the characters are convincingly conveyed. A glossary of Spanish terms accompanies this intimate, eloquent novel. Ages 11-13. (May)
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