cover image The Stranded Whale

The Stranded Whale

Jane Yolen, illus. by Melanie Cataldo. Candlewick, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6953-9

It is 1971, and a girl named Sally and her brothers are walking home across the sand dunes of their Maine town when she sees "this big gray thing, humped on the drying sand." It's a beached gray whale, which Sally attempts to help by soaking her sweater in the ocean and squeezing water over the unmoving animal. Debut artist Cataldo's grainy, ash-toned oil and pencil illustrations emphasize the physical enormity of the dying whale, as well as the children's desperation and helplessness. Though neighbors arrive with buckets and attempt to push the whale toward the receding tide, it becomes clear that their efforts are to no avail: "I was too mad to cry. Mad at the unforgiving ocean, rushing away from shore. Mad at our short arms and the whale's long body." Even after being praised by the community for her efforts, the girl refuses to relinquish her anger. It's an achingly sad story about accepting the limits of one's power, delivered with lyricism and poise. Ages 5%E2%80%939. Author's agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (July)