Subjective and ultimately sad, the story of one boy's concern for a beached whale that appears one day looking like ""a dead thing bigger than a bus"" and stays to die three days later despite attempts by the Coast Guard to tow him back to sea and visits by a ""whale doctor."" The boy knows that his older neighbors expect the whale to die and are most worried about the ""big stink"" it will make and even the whale doctor is more interested in research than in saving this particular one. So the boy faces his own love for the animal and questions of death alone; he dreams about the whale's beauty (""The fog moved and from it came little clouds of gray fog that turned into whales. . . Was this whale heaven?"") and finally looks into the dead whale's mouth and sees his own fear. It's a moving experience even though there are moments when the first person mask slips and one becomes aware of the adult sensibility behind it. And Dan Bernstein's brown-toned photos of the real whale that actually came to Provincetown, Mass., lend a balancing, low-keyed verite.