A Deaf girl won’t give up her quest to connect with a lonely whale.
Like many Deaf children, 12-year-old Iris has hearing parents, attends school with an interpreter, and has difficulty communicating with her classmates (especially the girl who believes her own invented gibberish is ASL). She had a close relationship with her Deaf grandparents, but her grandmother has withdrawn after her husband’s death, and Iris’ mom, a child of Deaf adults, has her own anxieties around her daughter’s need for Deaf community. The white girl’s troubles contrast with her black friend Wendell’s, whose hearing family is invested in Deaf language and culture. When Iris learns about Blue 55, a whale who sings at a frequency unintelligible to other whales, she feels an immediate kinship and concocts a plan to create a song Blue 55 can hear. A quick-moving, suspenseful plot takes her from junkyards to a cruise ship as she gains the confidence to stand up for herself and take control of her life. Written by a sign-language interpreter, this story incorporates important elements of Deaf culture and the expansiveness and richness of ASL but makes concessions to hearing readers in its recording of conversations. (ASL dialogue is appropriately rendered in fluent English.) The final suspenseful scenes strain credulity, and lengthy descriptions of frequencies and radio repair drag occasionally, but this remains a satisfying, energetic read.
Iris’ adventures will engross readers, though Deaf and hearing audiences will likely experience them differently. (Fiction. 8-14)