cover image Whale Brother

Whale Brother

Barbara Steiner. Walker & Company, $12.95 (28pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-6804-9

Omu, an Eskimo boy, tries to carve a seal from bone, but his father and another carver both tell him that he has not been able to put any life into his work. Believing that he is not a carver after all, Omu gives it up; still searching for a talent, he trades his spear for a harmonica. The other boys tease him, for he neither hunts nor carves, but sits around making terrible sounds. So Omu goes out to sea to play his harmonica and becomes friendly with whales who enjoy his music. When Skana, a great whale, is beached and dies, Omu stays with the once-mighty beast, carving a likeness from ivory. He attains ``qarrtsiluni,'' or the stillness from which real creativity flows. Mayo's pictures treat this tale gently, showing Omu's community and the need to live within the environment. With the symbolic trading of a spear for a harmonica, Steiner's message is perhaps obvious, but no less worthy, and lives up to the poetic telling. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)