Leiren-Young explores basic facts about orcas as well as the sobering history of continued human maltreatment of these whales.
The documentary filmmaker (The Hundred-Year-Old Whale) shares his extensive knowledge of orca culture and history with plentiful photographs. The book is approachable, the design maintaining a nice balance of text to sidebar to photograph. It is visually consistent: All callouts are called “Orca Bites,” photographs are labeled clearly, and chapters are designed similarly. The biggest struggle for readers is making sense of the order in which information is presented. A very helpful section about the different types of orcas with an illustrated guide doesn’t appear until Chapter 15, for example, even though several of those different ecotypes (classification of orcas into different species has proven difficult, hence the term) are referred to prior. Some of the “Orca Bites” are not aligned with their relevant photographs or are otherwise distracting. The narrative dips in and out of first person, which makes for an unbalanced tone. Disappointingly, Leiren-Young takes liberties by explaining what historical figures thought and felt without any direct citations or quotations. Readers should be prepared for the (rightfully included) gruesome and upsetting history of human treatment of whales. It’s a call to action for animal rights even if, as nonfiction, it’s uneven.
A fascinating subject related with passion—but also with poor organization. (glossary, resources, acknowledgements, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)