Saturday, July 11, 2015
Trapped: A Whale's Rescue, written by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor. Charlesbridge, Random House. 2015. $19.95 ages 7 and up
down her leathery back.
She arches and leaps.
She spanks the cold blue
with her powerful tail.
It's wonderful to begin this tale in the wondrous ocean waters off the California coast, where the enormous humpback whale is feeding on krill and cavorting freely. Wendell Minor's gouache artwork makes me feel as if I am in that water alongside her as she splashes and 'flashes her flukes'. On a hot, humid and sunny Manitoba morning it emits a feeling of cool release.
It would be lovely to just watch her as she enjoys her play; but, there is more to this tale of caution than the opening scenes show. Below the surface, in the dark waters, there is danger. This time it comes in the form of a crab net left behind by fishermen as they made their way home with their catch. To say it is a problem is an understatement.
"The struggle begins.
The web of ropes cuts into her skin.
She flails, starts to sink, fights for air.
With each thrust of her tail, she tires.
Her sides heave. She flops. She flounders.
At last the great whale shudders and lies still."
Now, she is TRAPPED!
Luckily there are brave and concerned rescuers willing to do their best to ensure her safety. They know the dangers. They work tirelessly to console her so that they can begin the work of freeing her from the ropes and release her to the ocean once more. It takes a number of workers to free her mouth, her body, her fins, her tail. Once she is released, she is back to swimming and moving about in the water near her rescuers. It is as if she is saying thank you for their hard work!
The true beauty of the artwork cannot be fully described. You will need the see it yourself to appreciate the colors, the light, the perspective in size between whale and human. Young readers will be awestruck by both the power and the gentleness shown so eloquently.
Based on an actual rescue, Robert Burleigh uses endnotes to source his interest in telling this story, offers information about the humpbacks themselves, the danger that is involved in attempting a rescue and increases our awareness of both the concern for and human disregard for marine life.