cover image A Symphony of Whales

A Symphony of Whales

Steve Schuch, Schuch. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201670-8

During the winter of 1984-1985, nearly 3,000 beluga whales were trapped in the Senyavina Strait of Siberia--and saved by the bravery and persistence of villagers and the crew of a passing icebreaker. Schuch, a musician, turns this episode into a picture book by casting a child as heroine. Glashka has always been able to hear music in her head, and the ""old ones"" of the village tell her she hears ""the voice of Narna, the whale. Long has she been a friend to our people."" Glashka uses this talent to find the trapped whales and then to discover the secret of saving them. The plotting and diction are a little trumped-up, but on balance the text is tender and moving, and debut illustrator Sylvada's heavy oil paintings readily transport readers to the bitter winter days of Siberia. Emphasizing the changing light and the textures of characters' clothing instead of individual expressions, the illustrations cast a mood that reinforces the sober issues of the text. Ages 6-10. (Nov.)