cover image Whaling Days

Whaling Days

Carol Carrick. Clarion Books, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-395-50948-7

Meticulous in all respects, this mini-history of whales and whaling (primarily 19th-century American whaling) combines substantial information and evocative illustrations that call to mind scrimshaw pieces on a larger scale. A brief summary of the origins of whaling leads quickly to a more discursive look at the hunting, harpooning, cutting up, and ``trying-out'' (cooking blubber to release the oil) of sperm whales in the 1800s. Carrick ( In the Moonlight, Waiting ; Patrick's Dinosaurs ) narrates the hunt so dramatically that whaling comes across as an exciting, daring activity, ironically subverting her anti-whaling intentions--as evidenced elsewhere in descriptions of the hard life of the sailors, the brutal coup-de-grace, and the status of whales today. Frampton's forceful woodcuts, in stark hues of black and ocher, add to the book's interest and intensity, though they occasionally do not mesh with the text: a labeled cut-away of a whaling ship uses terms not explained until much later. Overall an effective if necessarily ambivalent tribute to a unique activity of earlier times, well suited to classroom use. Ages 7-10. (Mar.)