A boy and his father discover a whale tangled in their only fishing net. Is the whale dead? While the man worries about losing their net, the boy worries about the whale. He remembers the fear he felt when, caught in a net himself in childhood, he almost drowned before being rescued by his father. When the whale blinks an enormous eye, the boy knows that he has to try to save the creature, no matter how dangerous doing so may be.
Expressive and perfectly paced, this powerful story, The Boy and the Whale, by Caldecott Medal–winner Mordicai Gerstein was inspired in part by a real-life video of a whale’s rescue, and the creature’s joyful dance through the waves after being freed.
This is a powerful story about a little boy’s determiniation to save a majestic whale caught in his and his father’s fishing net (despite his father’s warning that to try would be foolish and dangerous). While I don’t love the blatent disobedience the little boy shows his father’s wishes, the empathy the boy feels for the whale as well as respect for it as a living creature is moving and you can feel the struggle for life throughout the book.
Mordicai Gerstein (1935-2019) is the author and illustrator of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, winner of the Caldecott Medal, and has had many books named New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year.
Gerstein was born in Los Angeles in 1935. He remembers being inspired as a child by images of fine art, which his mother cut out of Life magazine, and by children’s books from the library: “I looked at Rembrandt and Superman, Matisse and Bugs Bunny, and began to make my own pictures.” He attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and then got a job in an animated cartoon studio that sent him to New York, where he designed characters and thought up ideas for TV commercials. When a writer named Elizabeth Levy asked him to illustrate a humorous mystery story about two girls and a dog, his book career began, and soon he moved on to writing as well as illustrating.
The author of more than forty books, Gerstein lived in Westhampton, Massachusetts.