Tag Archives: Whaling

Whalesong – Kate Gordon


Riveted Press/Yellow Brick Books

September 2022

ISBN: 9780645218022

RRP: $16.95

I absolutely love Tasmania. I have now been there four times, the last was an adventure with The Kid, who also loved it. There is still so much for me to explore and I’m really hoping we can go back again. One of the aspects I love so much about this treasure of a state, is the rich history that abounds everywhere you go – much of which is lovingly and respectfully preserved today.

This first foray into time-slip/historical fiction from Kate Gordon is just lovely. It did remind me of the much loved Playing Beatie Bow with the set of historical steps being very much in the forefront of the story, and that – as I think we can all agree – was a magnificent novel.

Aberdeen’s family have an association with Hobart which reaches back generations, and when she is given an antique chronometer, her family history becomes an intense, dramatic and sometimes dangerous adventure into the past.

Kate Gordon blends themes of conservation, environmental awareness, feminism, courage, family identity/heritage with the glorious tapestry that is the backstory of our smallest state. Aberdeen’s meeting with Betty is a revelation to her. Not only because of the newly discovered facts about a [undeservedly] revered historical figure, but because of the lineage of her family tree. Australia’s history and the whaling industry gives many of us pause for thought, particularly if, like myself, your family had a close association with those times. We know better now, of course we do, but in colonial times, the wealth of the country was very much tied up with practices that are now out of favour. Certainly, we have come a long way since those times and it is only fitting that we do all we can to redress the wrongs of a time when such industries were considered completely justified. Not necessarily in the manner of some practitioners, such as the villain of this story, so thankfully Aberdeen is able to set that straight – and more than that, create a new future for herself and others. “One person really can make a difference.”

I would suggest that this is a book for your more able and mature readers. They will need to stay focused in order to pick up on the nuances in the text. but it is not a difficult read as such. If you are looking for a shared reading to accompany a unit of work set in early 19th century Australia this would be a very good choice indeed and will offer up much to mine for productive conversations.

I recommend it for readers from around Year 6 upwards especially those who enjoy historical fiction.

The Last Whale – Chris Vick


Bloomsbury Australia

November 2022

Imprint: Head of Zeus

ISBN: 9781803281612

RRP: AU $26.99 NZ $29.99


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.

Barney and the Secret of the Whales – Jackie French



ISBN: 9780732299446

ISBN 10: 0732299446

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

On Sale: 01/02/2016

Pages: 144

List Price: 12.99 AUD


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.

Highly recommended for all readers Year 4 and up.