Trapped by over 20 ropes set by a crab-trapping boat, each over 200 feet long, a humpback whale struggles to stay alive.
This true story chronicling the daring rescue off the California coast by six scuba divers and three staffers from the Sausalito Marine Mammal Center on Dec. 11, 2005, is vividly portrayed by Minor’s eye-popping gouaches. The 50-ton whale explodes out of the waves and onto the pages. The combination of these beautiful paintings with Burleigh’s strong verb choices makes the opening scenes pulse with energy. “She spanks the cold blue with her powerful tail. Bang!” The actual rescue takes over an hour of careful maneuvering. Unfortunately, a surfeit of adverbs turns the dramatic rescue into a flat recounting of events. “Divers drop cautiously into the frigid water.” As the tension limps across three double-page spreads, Burleigh fails to convey that the whale needs to breathe and is tiring, a fact he only reveals in the backmatter. The abandoned crab-trap gear cuts into the whale; it holds her down. She could die if the divers can’t free her with their knives. Yet a plodding, anticlimactic observation obliterates the oomph factor. “Slowly the tangled netting falls away.”
Minor’s illustrations carry the day, helping readers and whale get past the rescue to the informative backmatter. (resources) (Informational picture book. 4-10)