A good couple of months before we started even packing up for the big move to Massachusetts, I put some serious restrictions on book procurement for any and all people around here who I am officially in charge of. Myself and the kids, essentially. Dan's book collection habits are an unstoppable force of nature that I wouldn't even try to harness. So, new books have been few and far between for the smalls these last few months, and any exceptions to this rule have been notable ones.
Which is to say, that if you are looking for a picture book truly worth its shelf space, If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano (with illustrations by Erin E. Stead) is an excellent choice indeed. I had heard enough buzz about this book even before it was in print, that when it actually became available, I just couldn't help but snap up a copy for our shelf. I have no regrets.
If You Want to See a Whale is a lyrical exploration of the finer points of watching for an extraordinary thing to happen; an ode to patience, perserverence, and the benefits of a watchful eye. The text reads almost like poetry, and the softly colored illustrations are simultaneously subtle and expressive. The story is a simple one- it chronicles the quest of a small boy and his dog as they set about whale watching- but the words on each page serve as invitations to a larger tale, just on the horizon of the reader's imagination. And despite the fact that this particular picture book is ideal for the younger reader, my chapter book eating nine-year old read through it immediately upon its arrival, and then wanted me to do the same (so that I could understand what she meant when she told me how very, very good it was).
If You Want to See a Whale is a whimsical and humorous guide to the finer points of nature observation (not being distracted by pirates, for example), but it is also a nice reflection on approaching the world with wide-eyed wonder and expecting to meet magic.