A young girl journeys on the back of a flying whale in this picture book, first published in Switzerland and translated from German into English.
Ida, a redheaded white girl who lives in a treehouse in a peaceful birch forest, often wonders “what lay beyond.” One night, woken by the shaking of her treehouse, she peers out to see a flying whale. Gugger and Röthlisberger’s sumptuous illustrations, evocative of the work of Lisbeth Zwerger, are infused with the sort of whimsical detail that makes for the best fantasy ambiance. When the whale invites Ida to go on a journey with him “beyond the stars,” Ida accepts eagerly. They talk about “all kinds of things. BIG and little” and eventually come to a place where everything is upside down. Here, the whale nudges the puzzled Ida to think beyond what she thinks is “normal”; and later, Ida’s question about why a flower is sending its seeds to the sky prompts the whale to explain, “So it can grow again…all of us grow.” Themes of curious exploration, growth, and friendship are all introduced in this whimsical, delicate way, accompanied by evocative illustrations. The only off-note is an inconsistency in the illustrative depictions of the size relationship between Ida and the whale, and while it could possibly be excused by the fantasy nature of the story, it’s noticeable. The endpaper illustrations deftly underscore the enrichment that results from journeys.
Enchanting and intriguing. (Picture book. 3-7)