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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Big Blue Forever: The Story of Canada's Largest Blue Whale Skeleton, by Anita Miettunen. Red Deer Press, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. 2017. $24.95 ages 8 and up

"Every bone is cleaned. Every bone is counted. Every bone is labeled. But wait a minute, there are missing bones! The whole left flipper is gone! The scientists are stunned. How can they rebuild a skeleton if a giant piece is missing? Then they discover chain saw marks. "Maybe when the whale washed ashore, somebody sawed off one flipper," someone guesses."

Based on a true story, this book is sure to be a hit with readers who love knowing more about whales. Big Blue washed up on a Prince Edward Island shore in 1987. Her size was a huge surprise to those who found her, and to the officials who needed to decide what to do with her. Their decision was made to bury her in the red clay in hopes that, sometime in the future, scientists could use her skeleton to learn more about blue whales. They are a rare species.

Twenty years later a British Columbia scientist and his team arrived to dig her up. They were astounded at what they found:

"The island soil has preserved the whole whale. Her skin is still blue! And there is a terrible smell! But the scientists are excited that they have found the whale."

They return in late spring to bring her out of the soil. Once the stinky skin and blubber are removed, they work tirelessly to gather all the bones so people can see it and also be astounded by 'the skeleton of the largest animal that ever lived'.

What labor intensive work it is! Once all bones have been found and packed, they are transported to British Columbia where a giant crane is used to lift the biggest ones. Before reassembling the whale they must get rid the bones of the stench that remains. More work begins ... until it finally finds a home at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC in Vancouver.

The rest of the book provides thoughts on how Big Blue died, the full story of the discovery, a list of the scientists who worked on her reconstruction, and additional blue whale facts including  the many attempts being made to save these majestic giants. An author's note and a list for further reading are also added.

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