A whale stranding becomes the occasion for a sad life lesson.
Discovering a beached whale on the shore near their Maine home, Sally and her brothers, aided by the Coast Guard, do all they can to save it, without success. Yolen wisely sets her story in 1971, a time uncomplicated by cellphones or hovering parents. Sally’s straightforward account is set in short lines on the double-page spreads. Through her voice, readers hear the surprise of their first encounter, the desperation of their efforts, their disappointment, and her anger and regret. Using digital and oil paints and pencil, debut illustrator Cataldo provides expansive seashore views and close-ups showing just a portion of the massive whale at a time. At one point readers see the whole scene in the distance as the children first did; another angle, high in the sky, shows a small Sally running toward the waves in an effort to get water to the drying whale. The darkness of the end is echoed in the dimly lit walk home, a sad family dinner, and the blue background of Sally’s dream sea, which almost drowns the words of her going-to-sleep wish to have seen it “heading out to deep water, / lifting its tail, and diving deep, / and free.”
A moving, memorable addition to the nature collection. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)