cover image Life After Whale: The Amazing Ecosystem of a Whale Fall

Life After Whale: The Amazing Ecosystem of a Whale Fall

Lynn Brunelle, illus. by Jason Chin. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8234-5228-6

Magnificent watercolor and gouache spreads by Caldecott Medalist Chin capture the grace of a blue whale in life alongside the bustling ecosystem that surrounds it in death, as its body provides nourishment for countless creatures that “will feed, grow, have babies, and thrive on the body of this whale.” In illuminating prose and sidebars, Brunelle (Turn This Book into a Beehive!) describes a blue whale’s life, size, and krill diet, then chronicles final moments as, after 90 years, “her heart quiets and finally stops.” A respectful beat later, the death represents “the end of one story” and “the beginning of another,” in which the whale’s body “will provide shelter and food for millions of creatures.” After birds and fish feed on the carcass, and it sinks to the ocean floor, four phases distinguish the ecosystem that grows up around it. Subsequent pages detail the yearslong first process, in which scavengers feast on the muscle and fat tissue; the two-year second process, in which smaller creatures graze on the remains; and the microscopic subsequent processes, which eventually feed the krill eaten by another young blue whale. Against a background of inky darkness that makes it easy to feel the cold and silence of the ocean floor, the work meticulously and sensitively portrays the countless sea creatures sustained by a single carcass over more than a century. It’s a thoughtful breakdown of death supporting life and a brilliant exposition of the way that populations grow and are sustained. Ample back matter concludes. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary. (June)