The young first mate on the Cuffee sightseeing boat, descendant of generations of men who worked whaling ships, compares whaling long ago with a whale-watching excursion today.
The cover reveals what makes this enjoyable field trip stand out; the narrator is female, a child of color. In her chatty spiel, the fictional tour guide offers plenty of facts. These are set on spreads that contrast views from the present-day expedition with the past. (The sepia tones of the latter add historical distance). She contrasts historic and modern attitudes toward whales, shows ways in which times have changed on shore and on the boats, and describes whaling techniques. She points out that the crews of early whaling ships included "escaped slaves and free blacks," and indeed, the crews in the historical pictures, like the crowd of tourists, are racially diverse. A double-page spread shows the excitement of a whale sighting today; the next spread shows a tiny whale boat from the past, its sailors attacking a massive whale with puny lances and a harpoon. Their sailing ship waits in the background. Backmatter provides further information about commercial whaling and whale watching, a glossary and good suggestions for further research. Karas’ pencil drawings, colored with gouache and acrylics, add intriguing detail.
This inventive look at maritime history has significant modern child appeal. (Informational picture book. 5-9)