A boy defies his father’s warning and rescues a whale tangled in their sole fishing net.
The story opens with two clear viewpoints. Papa is distressed their only source of income is in jeopardy; Abelardo is very concerned for the whale’s survival. He remembers a time when he had been trapped in a net and almost drowned before his father saved him. Papa leaves to borrow another net, and Abelardo, alone on the beach, takes their outboard-equipped panga out to the ensnared whale, dives in, and bravely works with a small knife to cut the tough plastic netting, finally freeing the animal. The boy’s daring determination and his emotional and physical struggles are evident in the succinct, first-person narrative, which builds urgency, fear, and suspense to a one-word crescendo—“…BREATHE!”—when Abelardo and whale must surface to do so. Realistic pen-and-ink–and-acrylic paintings alternate between sunny, glimmering sea and beach scenes and dark underwater scenes done in aquas and grays. The drama is vividly shown, paralleling the boy’s passion with the whale’s defeated resignation in a double-page image of the boy’s grim face next to and as large as the gray whale’s sad eye. The inspiring, humane adventure joyfully concludes with Gerstein’s pinnacle scenes of the whale breaching joyfully. A Latin American coastal setting is indicated with naming conventions; Abelardo and his father have brown skin and straight, black hair.
Bravo for a courageous boy’s achievement. (Picture book. 5-8)