cover image Song for a Whale

Song for a Whale

Lynne Kelly. Delacorte, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5247-7023-5

Twelve-year-old Iris was named for the whale that her grandparents had witnessed being beached on the same day the girl was born, presumably because the mammal wasn’t able to navigate her way due to a hearing loss—though, as Grandpa explains in ASL translated into text, “She wasn’t born Deaf like we were.” Iris zealously collects and repairs vintage radios, feeling vibrations on the speakers to discern “if a radio was playing music or crackling with static or sitting there like a box of rocks.” Iris discovers a new passion after watching a documentary about Blue 55, a baleen whale who swims alone rather than in pods and sings at a frequency that renders his song unintelligible to other whales. She vows to use her electronics acumen to communicate with Blue 55 by creating a song that will “let him know he [isn’t] alone.” Subtly and poignantly drawing a parallel between the girl and whale, Kelly (Chained), who has worked as a sign language interpreter, relays Iris’s venture with credibility and urgency. The emotional current deepens as Iris mourns the sudden death of her grandfather—her kindred spirit—and witnesses the increasing aloofness of her once vibrant grandmother, who’s also deaf. Kelly effectively interjects Blue 55’s perspective into the narrative and adds an engrossing final note about the real-life whale who inspired the story. This finely crafted novel affectingly illuminates issues of loneliness, belonging, and the power of communication. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Molly O’Neill, Waxman Leavell Literary. (Feb.) [/em]