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Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Storm Whale, written and illustrated by Benji Davies. Heny Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"One night, a great storm raged around their house. In the morning, Noi went down to the beach to see what had been left behind. As he walked along the shore, he spotted something in the distance. As he got closer, Noi could not believe his eyes ... "

It's hard to keep a whale a secret, especially if it's in your bathtub!
The telling events leading up to the whale's visit make this a heartfelt and sincere, yet simply told, story of family and friendship.

Noi is a small, lonely boy. We know that because we can see that he is often alone. He and his father live near a small collection of buildings on the beach. Noi's father is a fisherman, gone each day from early morning until dark. Noi spends his days with his cats for company, wandering the beach in search of treasure. On the morning following a frightening storm, Noi notices something up the beach. As he investigates he finds that a small whale has washed up there.

Noi rescues the whale, aware that it cannot be out of the water for long. His wagon offers the perfect transport. As he comforts the whale at home in the bathtub, he plays music (Sounds of the Sea, Vol II and Water Music by Handel), and does what he can to assure its comfort:

"Noi did everything he could to make the whale feel at home. He told stories about life on the island. The whale was an excellent listener."

As darkness falls, Noi worries that his father will be annoyed with their visitor. He does his best to keep his father from discovering the whale in the bathtub. To no avail ... in dealing with the situation, Noi's father makes an even more surprising discovery about his son and their life together.  

Every time I read this beautifully told story, I find one more detail in the telling images to admire. The text tells the rudimentary story basics of a boy and his father, and their life by the sea. The wonder and emotion of the tale is in the artwork. Each spread is replete with details that convey first the loneliness that both Noi and his father experience, and then the joy that comes with happy companionship. Benji Davies allows his readers to experience the depth of the those emotions in the way he showcases his characters through body language; it speaks so eloquently to those who take the time to pore over his honest, emotional illustrations.

Thoughtful, endearing and forever memorable. This is a 'keeper'!

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