The Heart of a Whale
"Whale's song was so beautiful it could reach the farthest of faraways./ It sang of happiness and hope, magic and wonder, always and everywhere." Right away the reader knows that The Heart of a Whale is a no-snark zone--something that's no longer a given in kid lit. The book is perhaps not, however, a no-shark zone: as the reader will note, various sea critters (an octopus, baby seahorses) are lulled by the whale's daily song.
But the whale doesn't want to sing a solo: "Even with the roaring waves above him, even with the pounding drumbeat of his heart, even with his song... Whale thought how quiet the sea could be at times.../ and how there was no song big enough to fill his empty heart." He then releases a sigh, which carries through the water until it reaches another whale, who comes and finds him: "Together they sang of happiness and hope, magic and wonder.../ always and everywhere."
The milieu may be watery, but The Heart of a Whale is sweet without being sappy. That's because Anna Pignataro, an Australian author/illustrator who has created more than 60 books for kids, injects her blue-washed art, which has the color-blended look of watercolors, with a terrific level of detail. (Her ocean creatures could not easily be marketed as plush toys: they look too realistic.) The Heart of a Whale also avoids being maudlin because, while Pignataro is plumbing the deep blue sea, she is meanwhile investigating dark emotional terrain. Her message that we should all be keeping an ear out for cries of help is executed with perfect pitch. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author