If You Want to See a Whale

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
If You Want to See a Whale Book Poster Image
Gentle, lyrical glimpse of a boy waiting to spot a whale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids see how big whales are and where they live. They also see what a pelican looks like.

Positive Messages

Patience is a virtue, sometimes you have to wait a long time to see something really worth seeing, keen observation is a good skill, watch out for distractions -- you don't want to miss what you've been waiting for.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The little boy is very patient, calm, attentive, observant, imaginative (he sees a sailboat and quickly imagines a pirate ship), and his dog is a patient, loyal companion.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that If You See a Whale is a gentle picture book that celebrates imagination and observing the natural world, from the creators of And Then It's Spring. As a boy and his dog patiently wait to spot a whale, the unseen narrator warns of potential distractions (a bird, bug, boat, clouds, flags, falling asleep) and encourages them to remain watchful. Ultimately, the two are rewarded for their patience. With its gentle pace and tone, it's a good choice for bedtime, or could be perfect before a nature walk or beach day, where you might even spot a whale.

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What's the story?

A boy and his dog want to see a whale. An unseen narrator describes what needs to be done. He'll need \"a window/ and an ocean/and time for waiting/ and time fro looking/ and time for wondering 'is that a whale?'\" But, as the narrator instructs, you have to avoid getting sleepy -- \"because sleeping eyes can't watch for whales/and whales won't wait for watching\" -- or distracted. Then the many possible distractions are shown: pretty smelling roses, birds, bugs, boats, clouds, flags. Eventually the duo's patience is rewarded and a whale pops up by their boat.

Is it any good?

IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE has the same gentle tone and pace and soft pastel palette as this author and illustrator's first book, And Then It's Spring. It reflects a classic view of childhood where kids have no deadlines or electronic distractions and are simply hanging out enjoying the natural world around them. Julie Fogliano's text is simple yet poetic, and Erin M. Stead's pencil-and-linoleum prints are low-key but engaging. This is a sweet choice for kick-starting a nature walk or quieting down for bed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whales. Have you ever seen one in real life? In a museum? What would you compare its size to?

  • Do you find it difficult to be patient? Or are you good at waiting for things?

  • Practice your observing skills. Sit in one place, in your backyard or in your neighborhood, and count up all the creatures you see -- bugs, birds, animals. How many can you find in 10 minutes?

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