Lanan’s wordless narrative pulls viewers right into the choppy waves of her gouache-and-watercolor world as a man and a pre-adolescent kid haul fish-laden nets into their boat.
Their shared light skin tone and reddish-brown hair signal a familial relationship. As the day winds down, the child notices what readers have been observing: A whale is entangled in underwater lines connected to traps for shellfish. While the father would prefer to depart, the child insists that they help the animal. Lanan employs a variety of perspectives and page designs to build suspense and maintain interest. Circular compositions depicting the tilting vessel on white backgrounds—as if glimpsed through a telescope—are balanced on either side of the gutter. These give way to double-page spreads of the blue ocean depths that bleed off the page. Action is observed from the air, underwater, and at middle range, with a front seat to the rescue above and below the surface. At times the book must be turned vertically to grasp the scale of the operation. Endpapers provide a satisfying symmetry related to featured characters. In a concluding note, the author asks readers to “suspend your disbelief and read this story as a fable rather than a literal guide.” She explains some liberties taken in service of layout and cautions the audience against attempting such a response. Her failure to specifically locate her “fable” or to represent realistic maritime traffic—there’s only ever the one boat—may leave coastal readers unmoored.
This compelling fictional introduction raises awareness and empathy for a very real environmental problem. (Picture book. 4-7)