cover image I Lived Inside a Whale

I Lived Inside a Whale

Xin Li. Little, Brown, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-316-49227-0

It’s not merely a desire for alone time that occasions a child’s retreat from everyday life’s cacophony in this thought- ful solo debut by Li (You Are Home). In digitally finished pencil, watercolor, and gouache, the young narrator acknowledges experiencing what cues as sensory overload—a world “filled with too much of everything, everywhere, all the time”—created by a raucous birthday party and a street with noisy traffic. The narrator, who sports high pigtails, fantasizes about life within a blue whale, a creature with a heart so large “that my dad could stand inside it.” Soon, the child sails in a small boat through a doorway with a drawing of a whale’s mouth taped around it: there, “I was embraced by silence.” Then a too-friendly chum crashes this quiet refuge. Though conflict is expected, visually rich fantasy sequences show the newcomer respecting the narrator’s boundaries, transfixed first by story retellings, then by the protagonist’s own tales. In the quiet, the narrator discovers, one can hear one’s own voice—and others listen when they speak their truth—following an inspiring, unexpected interior journey. Protagonists read as East Asian. Ages 4–8. Agent: Angharad Kowal Stannus, Kowal Stannus. (Feb.)