“In the far, far north,” Cuno and Aia seek out an animal with “a heart as big as a boat.”
After his father tells a story one night, Cuno spends days ignoring his little sister to scan the Arctic waters in hopes of seeing a whale. “The big beast” even occupies his dreams. Captivated by the puzzle of how a whale can “be so large and never be seen,” Cuno sneaks away, taking his father’s kayak into open water to “find the whale on his own.” Annoyed when he discovers tag-along Aia hiding in the hull, Cuno banishes her to the stern. As their journey continues, Cuno’s frustration with Aia grows. Only when the two suddenly become separated does Cuno show he cares. But it takes “a huge, kind heart” of a different type to reunite them and return them home. Readers aware of Indigenous Arctic peoples will notice characters wear parka-style attire, have brown-skinned faces, and search for the whale using an Inuit kayak and paddle. While modernist illustrations echo the stark Arctic setting and cinematic perspectives enhance tensions, the British author/illustrator and his German publisher exclude mention of Indigenous cultural specifics in a tale that has a folkloric feel, leaving readers adrift.
An even-keeled offering about sibling bonds and a spectacular visual of human connection to the natural world yaws off course. (Picture book. 2-6)