ICE WHALE by Jean Craighead George


Age Range: 10 - 13
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George’s last novel, completed by her sons Twig and Craig, traces a 200-year cycle of devastation, change and recovery in Arctic waters.

In 1848, Toozak, a Yu’pik lad, is awed to witness the birth of a bowhead whale with a distinctive chin marking, naming it Siku. But the privilege becomes an obligation years later, after he unthinkingly sets off a general slaughter by pointing a Yankee whaler to a pod of whales. He is told by a shaman that atonement will require protecting Siku until the whale dies or rescues either him or one of his descendants. Over the next two centuries, as bowheads are hunted nearly to extinction, then become a protected species and slowly recover, the whale and descendants of Toozak sight one another once or twice each generation. The structure makes for a particularly episodic plot but provides readers with a panoramic view of the area’s natural and human history. To get away from anthropomorphism in the undersea chapters, George invented a system of squiggly lines to represent the whales’ own names and other calls. 2048 brings a final encounter (research suggests that bowheads can live that long) and also a wistful, wishful picture of an Arctic culture that has returned to its old roots.

A fitting envoi for a writer whose most enduring tales of nature and survival are required childhood reading. (map, whale portrait) (Adventure. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8037-37457
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Dial
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2014


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