cover image The Whales' Song

The Whales' Song

Dyan Sheldon. Dial Books, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-0972-0

In this haunting, evocative picture book, Lilly's grandmother tells her that, when she was young, she used to leave gifts for the whales--``a perfect shell. Or a beautiful stone. And if they liked you, the whales would take your gift and give you something in return.'' Lilly's great-uncle Frederick claims that the story is ``nothing but a silly old tale,'' that she shouldn't ``be dreaming her life away.'' But one morning, Lilly, believing her grandmother's claim that ``they were the most wondrous creatures you could ever imagine,'' drops a yellow flower into the water. `` `This is for you,' she called into the air,'' and later that night she sits waiting, like a mermaid on a rock, finally receiving a gift in return. Filling the night with their song, the whales call Lilly's name. Infused with the cadences of real speech, Sheldon's poetic text manages to overlay a homespun practicality with an ethereal, fairy-tale magic. The unique grandeur and beauty of these creatures, ``as peaceful as the moon,'' are compellingly interwoven throughout the narrative. Newcomer Blythe's paintings are extraordinary. The play of light and shadow in his cozy interiors is delicately balanced against stunningly realistic faces--Lilly's purity and innocence, her elders' splendidly craggy countenances. Rendered in unusual perspectives, these vibrant panoramas of the sea and of the whales leaping from the moonlit water possess a rare luminosity and beauty that should not be missed. Ages 4-8. (May)