Parents' Guide to

Song for a Whale

By Joly Herman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Compelling tale of deaf girl's search for a whale.

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A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

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Kids say (3):

This interesting exploration of communication between members of a community choppily achieves its a goal. Song for a Whale looks at the essence of belonging: the ability to be understood. Iris communicates in many ways -- she speaks sign language, she fixes old radios until they can sing again, she makes sign-language poetry with her grandparents using the shape of her hands to determine the shape of the poem. But she feels left out of the world around her. She relies on an interpreter, her family, or anyone around her to explain to her what she can't hear. Kids will appreciate the topic of what it means to be misunderstood and seemingly alone.

There is real poetry in the book, since it explores metaphors of being an outlier of the school -- both the hearing, human school and the school of sea mammals. But there are moments where Iris' announcements about her obsession get repetitive and a little boring. At a key point in the story, something that she had the genius to make is literally cast aside without much ado, which might make kids wonder why she spent so much time making this thing that she seems to abandon. But the ends outweigh the means, and the miracle of communication is finally understood by many, thanks to a deaf girl who isn't afraid to take risks.

Book Details

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