Hodson’s debut introduces children to one matrilineal group of orcas living in the Pacific Northwest, an actual group of whales that has been studied by scientists for over 40 years.
What will strike readers most is how familylike the whales are. Granny, believed to be about 100 years old, nudges her newborn grandson to the surface for his first breath of air. She has valuable knowledge of the waters and salmon habits, which she passes on to Suttles and Mako as the group hunts together, sonar clicks helping them “see” their environment. Hodson lightly sketches relationships among the group, the energetic Suttles and Mako both competing and sharing as they learn to hunt, and Ruffles offering a fish to the new mother. In the end, Granny calls many matrilineal groups together to a superpod gathering, the whales greeting one another before responding vocally to the Orca Sing of the people lining the coast. While many descriptions evoke beautiful images, short, choppy sentences sometimes mar the flow of the text. Orcas are identified by the shapes of their dorsal fins and the saddles on their backs, and Jones does a nice job of depicting Granny and Ruffles, though the other family members are less individuated. Backmatter tells of the real clan of orcas that inspired the story and fleshes out the information presented.
Certain to get children interested in learning more about this endangered and very social species. (list of websites, list of further materials available at publisher’s website) (Informational picture book. 5-9)