This is a terrific read which combines a lot of very topical issues into a passionate call to arms in a vital environmental crisis.
Spanning three generations the story of the Kristensen family and their close connection with the great whales, the narrative starts in the present with Abi. Bordering on computer genius, feisty eco-activist Abi has modified the AI device she’s been given to use as part of her winning the Newtek Challenge. She has quite legitimately used it to collect data on bees and other nature aspects as was part of her winning brief but she has also used her IT creativity to alter the AI, dubbed Moonlight by Abi’s little sister, to respond to her commands above anyone else’s and to ignore any communication from Newtek – definitely not legitimate in the eyes of the mega-corporation.
Abi’s eco-terrorism has resulted in the family’s holiday (a bid to curb her passionate recklessness) on her grandmother’s remote Norwegian island where she discovers a whaling connection to the past. Her grandfather’s notes and recordings of the great whales, their migrations and family groups from a past in which he rejected whaling in favour of preserving these animals.
The narrative concludes in the future with Abi’s daughter, Tori, taking up the mantle of protecting, preserving and tracking the remaining great whales with the aid of a now almost fully conscious and independent thinking Moonlight.
This is lyrical and poignant with beautiful writing which compels the reader to fully absorb the implications of current human wilful disregard of warning signs. At the same time, it sends a very clear message about hope and the urgent need for us all to take on board the duty of care we have towards to our planet and all its inhabitants. It is powerful and reflects the author’s own commitment to dolphin and whale conversation as well as his involvement with Authors4Oceans.
You will have many takers for this one and it would work wonderfully with a unit of work focused on these important topics, as well as some interesting discussion (especially in light of recent developments) on ethical use of AI. I could also easily see students leading the way in forming some kind of active alliance to support the efforts in this direction. Highly recommended for astute readers from around 13 years upwards.
This is just a magical read – the lyrical text almost flows like the water Vega and her family inhabit – and was certainly for me last night, a really intriguing but also restful way to read myself ready to sleep. That’s not to say it’s without tension and drama but there really is just something about it that just floats the reader along with the orcas.
I have to be honest. I had never heard of the Salish Sea nor was I particularly aware of different types of orcas, so reading this was also very informative and it is indeed described as ‘slyly educational’ which is pretty much spot on. *grin*
Vega and her family are already facing difficulties as their usual salmon feeding cycle has been disrupted and their hunger increases as they try to find the salmon that is usually so plentiful. They do not realise that humans have made such an impact on the ecosystem at first. Vega is learning to be the salmon finder for her family, against the day when she will become the matriarch following on from her mother and grandmother but when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami separate her, along with her younger brother Debden, from the rest of the pod, they must brave danger and threats to try to find their family again. In a sea that is almost unrecognisable they face sharks, their increasing hunger and polluted waters and Vega must be resilient and employ every skill she has learned from her mentors.
It is a rousing adventure, a wonderful story of survival and an ecological lesson all in one with superb research underpinning the entire story. It is further enhanced with beautiful black-and-white illustrations, and also includes a map, much backmatter and information on orcas.
The publisher suggests it for 8 years upwards and certainly it is not a demanding text but I am seriously considering it for inclusion with our scant ‘Animals’ genre collection for our Year 7s in particular as I think there would be many kiddos who like both animal stories and are interested in environmental topics for whom this would greatly appeal.
On that basis I’m giving it a full recommendation for readers from around Year 4 to Year 8. A very useful teaching guide is available.
Is there any other author who has such a deft hand at bringing Australian history alive for young readers as Jackie French?
It appears this much –loved and well-respected writer is unsurpassed in this particular genre (not to mention all her other writing!).
The second instalment in the The Secret Histories series re-introduces the reader to young Barney. The boy’s mother was a convict but she sadly died like so many on the perilous journey of the First Fleet and Barney, being a free person but a child, would still be at risk if not for the generosity of the Johnsons who have taken him to their hearts.
In these early days of the colony, life for so many can be harsh and surviving can be fraught. Accruing any kind of wealth is almost unheard of as the newly founded settlement lumbers along.
Then an exciting visitor named Captain Melvill turns up and brings with him tales of great adventure and the lure of riches to be had from whaling. Barney is not greedy by any means but he knows that one day the Johnsons will return to England and he along with his little friend Elsie will need to make their own way in New South Wales. If he can go whaling it would mean the opportunity to earn the stake money for a small farm for them.
Life on a whaling ship as a boy is tough and often hard but it is not that which makes Barney heartsick. It is the cruelty of the killing of one of the most magnificent animals he has ever encountered. The hunting of sperm whales with the riches they bring to men revolts Barney to a point of misery. Fortunately after just one hunting expedition Barney is able to return to his peaceful home.
For lovers of history this examination of a little known aspect of the early European settlement in Australia is fascinating. For students who are inquiring into such history it is vital to my mind. No longer can we gloss over the less honourable events in our country’s history.
In a joyful exploration of imagination, Kylie and Tom romp riotously through Bruno’s bathtime – which is somewhat impeded due to there being a whale in the bath!
Sent upstairs for his bath, Bruno finds a very large, very blue whale overflowing the edges of the bathtub, using, if you don’t mind, Bruno’s bubblegum scented bubblebath! How RUDE!
Poor Bruno tries to explain this fishy situation to his sister, big brother, his mum and finally his dad but no one believes him. Just because last week he had said there was a bear under his bed, and on Dad’s birthday he had seen a walrus in the backyard seems no just reason to disbelieve his whale tale.
Sanguinely, the whale takes his time with his ablutions despite Bruno’s protestations. After all, it’s not easy washing all your bits when the bath seems bucket-sized to the bather. When things start to get a little heated (and not just the bath water) because Bruno still has not had his bath, the laidback whale comes up with a very ‘splashy solution’.
With a fabulous text and Tom Jellet’s outstanding illustrations, this is a marvellous read-aloud for little folk and a humorous take on children’s imaginations. It could easily springboard to joint writing of other situations – brushing teeth? Getting dressed for school? Taking out the rubbish?
Highly recommended for ages 3 and up – and all bath procrastinators!
Find a great colour-in sheet here. Visit Kylie’s webpage and find out more about her work.