Ada and the Galaxies by Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv

Ada and the Galaxies

Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv, Authors

Susanna Chapman, Illustrator

MIT Kids Press/ Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep 7, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Stargazing, Galaxies, Nature, Intergenerational

Opening: “Ada loves the stars. But in New York, the city lights make the night sky too bright to see the stars.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

There is so much for Ada to do while visiting her grandparents on an island in Maine, but no amount of beachcombing and kayaking during the day can take the place of looking at the bright and beautiful stars at night. She can hardly wait for the sun to set, but will a thick fog spoil her stargazing plans?

Why I like this book:

Renowned physicist Alan Lightman and Olga Pastuchiv have imaginatively created  Ada and the Galaxies, a delightful story about an eager young girl who can’t wait to gaze at the stars with her grandparents. The text flows nicely, giving Susanna Chapman’s breathtaking watercolor and layered photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope time to work their magic with readers. And, it’s a beautiful story depicting a loving relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter.   

I love the authors’ pacing and the build up for Ada’s stargazing adventure with her grandparents. During the day she explores the island shoreline with Poobah and Ama and learns about the natural world around the Maine coastline. There are Osprey in a nest high in a tree feeding hungry babies, and low and high tides to learn about. Ada makes collects shells and moss with Ama and makes a fairy house on the beach.  

Ada explodes with curiosity and enthusiasm as she waits for the sky to turn dark. When fog rolls in, Pooba and Ada  pour over books with gorgeous pictures of stars and galaxies. Ada asks a lot of thoughtful questions. She wonders about life in other galaxies as Poobah talks about how “everything in the universe is made out of the same stuff.  It’s all part of nature.” What a wonderful tribute to the interconnectivity of life in the universe.

Resources/Activities: This book is perfect for home or school. On a clear night, take your children stargazing. Point out the prominent stars, like the North Star, the Big and Little Dippers and Venus. Encourage them to draw pictures of their adventure.

Alan Lightman has a PhD in theoretical physics and is the best-selling author of Einstein’s Dreams, amonth other books for adults. Ada and the Galaxies is his first book for children and was inspired by his granddaughter’s visits to Maine. Alan Lightman is a professor of practice of humanities at MIT and lives in Massachusetts.

Olga Pastuchiv is a children’s book author, painter, and commercial illustrator.  She paints things large and small, for murals and parade floats to illustrations for picture books. She is the creator of Minas and the Fish and the illustrator of Fables in a Modern Key by Pierre Coran and Riparia’s River by Michael J. Caduto. She lives in Maine.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

 

These Unlucky Stars by Gillian McDunn

These Unlucky Stars

Gillian McDunn, Author

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Fiction, Mar. 2, 2021

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Self-confidence, Sibling rivalry, Intergenerational relationships, Friendship, Luck

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Eleven-year-old Annie has always been the odd one out in her family. Her dad and brother just don’t understand her creativity or spontaneity. They are so practical…so predictable. And ever since her mother left a few years ago, Annie has been reluctant to get close to anyone. She keeps to herself.

When a poor decision lands Annie in hot water, she must make amends by checking in daily with her elderly neighbor and helping with her weird dog all summer.  As Annie begins to connect with her neighbor Gloria, it becomes clear that Gloria won’t be able to live on her own for much longer. But it’s this brief and important friendship that gives Annie the confidence to let people in and see how rich life can be when you decide to chart your own path to happiness. 

Why I like this book:

Gillian McDunn has written a sensitive and charming novel about Annie, who has an artist’s heart. McDunn’s narrative beautifully captures the drama and emotion of middle grade students. Her memorable characters and deliberate pacing will keep readers fully engaged.

Annie is convinced she is the unluckiest person ever. She’s somewhat of a loner. She loves to crawl out her bedroom window and sit on the roof and stare at her beautiful mountains. She captures their shimmering sunrises and sunsets with her colored pencils. Neither her predictable and hardworking father and brother, Ray, appreciate her artistic talent. They see her as careless and worry about her safety. Ray is popular at school and is good at everything.  Annie is not Ray, so this makes for some interesting sibling rivalry.

When Annie accepts a dare to play “ding dong ditch” on an elderly woman, she causes her to fall and break her wrist. More bad luck. It only seems right that Annie helps Gloria everyday and cares for her dog, Otto, while the feisty old woman recovers — perfect for Annie. The intergenerational bond that forms between Annie and Gloria, makes this novel really shine! Annie begins to believe in herself and her talents, interact with other people, and creates her own life. 

The setting of Oak Branch, North Carolina, is so beckoning and rich with character. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, the small town smells of fresh pine. Readers will want to stroll through the small town and purchase hot muffin’s from Lulu’s bakery, stop at the book store and visit JoJo and The Earl’s for some serious North Carolina BBQ. And there are many more interesting characters to meet along Main Street.

The novel is divided into five parts with short chapters that are perfect for reluctant readers. Scattered throughout the novel are Annie’s drawings, which give a great deal of insight into her feelings and chart her growth.

Gillian McDunn is the author of The Queen Bee and Me and Caterpillar Summer, which was selected for the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List and the Parents magazine Best Books of the Year list. She has lived in three time zones and is a fan of Eastern and Western barbecue. When she isn’t reading or writing, she is probably cooking, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives near Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and children, and a very silly dog named Friday.  Visit her at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

My Red Hat by Rachel Stubbs

My Red Hat

Rachel Stubbs, Author/Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Feb. 2, 2021

Suitable for ages:  3-7

Themes: Grandfather, Red hat, Intergenerational, Memories, Possibilities

Opening: “I give you my hat.  It will keep you warm and dry or help keep you cool.”

Synopsis:

 A grandfather gives his red hat to his granddaughter, as he shares with her its many uses.  The hat will keep her warm and dry. It can help her stand out in a crowd or blend in. It can hold her dreams or hide her secrets. The hat will be ready for any adventure, hold her memories, give her strength and courage and bring her back home. It will also serve as a water bowl for her dog — love the witty humor.  

Sure to put a smile on any child’s face, this story is a beautiful intergenerational tale about the sweet and important role a grandparent plays in a grandchild’s life. The language is simple and the grandfather’s words are conveyed with love. I will admit I was prepared for the child’s return home with the grandfather no longer there. But the author pleasantly surprised me, making the ending even sweeter. This is a lovely bedtime read. 

The whimsical illustrations are done in ink and graphite, with a pallet of gray, blue and splashes of red throughout. The simple lines convey a lot of expression and love. 

Resources: Do you have a something that your grandparent gave to you? It must be something important if they want you to have it. A quilt? A favorite toy? A book? A piece of jewelry? A stamp collection? A treasure box? Does it have a special story? Talk about what it means to you. It must be something important if they want you to have it. Draw a picture of the item.     

Rachel Stubbs has a master of arts in illustration from the UK’s Cambridge School of Art and is a recipient of the Sebastian Walker Award for illustration, named for the founder of children’s book publishing companies Walker Books and Candlewick Press. Rachel Stubbs makes her home in London.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
 
*Review copy provided by Candlewick in exchange for a review.

 

Sweet Pea Summer by Hazel Mitchell

Sweet Pea Summer

Hazel Mitchell, Author & Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 13, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Family, Gardening, Nature, Intergenerational relationships, Separation, Health 

Opening: “Mom had to go into the hospital, so Dad was taking me to Grandpa and Grandma’s house for summer vacation.”

Publisher’s Synopsis

A young girl must stay with her grandparents while her mother is in the hospital. At first, it’s hard at first to focus on anything but missing and worrying about her mom. But then Grandpa suggests that she help out in his garden. And what a garden it is! There are rows and rows of vegetables and all kinds of flowers, but the most beautiful of all are Grandpa’s sweet peas. Maybe, Grandpa suggests, she can take care of them over the summer and enter them into the flower show.

Nothing seems to go right with the sweet peas. No matter what she does, the flowers keep dying. Until finally, the mystery is solved—but will the sweet peas bloom in time for the show? If only her mother were there . . .

With warm, child-friendly illustrations and a simple narration, author-illustrator Hazel Mitchell tells a timeless story about holding on to hope in hard times and finding the strength and determination to see it through. A brief author’s note at the end offers a bit of history and a few details about sweet peas for aspiring gardeners.

What’s to love about this story

Hazel Mitchell has written and illustrated a book that is full of heart and joy. It is a timeless story about a girl finding hope during a challenging time in her life. Readers aren’t told what is wrong with her mother, so it leaves this story wide-open for discussion about short parent-child separations.  

The intergenerational relationship between the girl and her grandfather shines. He puts her in charge of the sweet pea garden and shows her how to remove old seedpods, tie stems to canes, weed and water the plants with his secret formula. The girl takes pride in her work.

When there is a problem with the sweet peas, it is the girl who researches gardening books, wraps the plants with blankets, and shades the plants from the sun with her Grandma’s umbrellas. When nothing makes a difference, she puts on her thinking cap and discovers why the blooms are fulling off and dying.

Mitchell’s warm and happy illustrations capture an English countryside with cottages surrounded by low stonewalls, friendly neighbors chatting, and children walking dogs. And grandpa’s garden is a wonder to behold for any child eager to help. Mitchell’s artwork is plump with details that kids will enjoy. This book is a perfect gift book and summer read.  

Resources: Encourage kids to help in the flower or vegetable garden, if you have one. If you don’t have a garden, pick out some flower pots and grow tomatoes plants or flowers, including sweet peas. Make sure they know all about what they are planting and put them in charge of watering and weeding.  At the end of the book, Mitchell includes a special note about Sweet Peas. 

Hazel Mitchell is the author-illustrator of Toby, as well as the illustrator of numerous books for children. Originally from Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Maine.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
 
*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

 

That Missing Feeling by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

That Missing Feeling

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Author

Morena Forza, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Jan. 12, 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Divorce, Change, Emotions, Diary, Grandfather, Intergenerational relationships

Opening: “Who wants to sprinkle cheese?” Mia’s dad called. Mia reached to sprinkle cheddar into a puffy omelet. The kitchen felt warm and smelled delicious. Luna and Toby snuggled.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Mia’s life feels split in two after her parents get divorced—even her cat and dog now live in two separate places. When she’s at her dad’s house, Mia misses her mom’s jokes and singing. And when she’s at her mom’s house, she misses her dad’s laugh and cooking.

Mia just can’t quite shake that missing feeling. Sometimes that missing feeling makes her angry. And sometimes it makes her sad.

One day when Mia visits her Grandpa, he gives her a little blue notebook saying, “When I write about Grandma, I am sad but I am happy too. She is gone, but you are here. Life changes, and writing helps me think about these changes. My notebook is a home for my heart.”

Mia keeps her notebook wherever she goes, writing about happy and sad memories. And soon her notebook becomes a way to balance that missing feeling. And also a home for her heart.

Why I like this book:

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s That Missing Feeling is a heartwarming story about a child dealing with change after her parents divorce. But Mia misses so many things and her parents divorce stirs up big emotions like anger and sadness. This book will facilitate avenues of honest conversation about separation and divorce.

This is also about intergenerational relationships, where Mia and her grandfather bond over loss. For me, the most touching moment is when Mia’s grandfather realizes how much Mia misses her parents and hands her an empty journal to record all of her happy moments, draw pictures and write down her feelings.  It is refreshing and hopeful when Mia’s grandfather pulls out his journals to show Mia how he copes with the loss of her grandmother. The connection between Mia and her grandfather is simply beautiful!

Morena Forza’s beautiful illustrations reflect the mood of the story, showing sadness and many uplifting moments. What a great cover! Great collaboration between author and illustrator.

Resources: Make sure you check out the back of the book for a double-page spread about “Keeping Your Own Notebook” and ways to get started.  Journals help both children and adults sort out feelings through writing poetry, drawing pictures and jotting down feelings.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has taught writing for over twenty years,, and her children’s books have received accolades from the Junior Library Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Amy blogs for students and teachers at The Poem Farm and Sharing Our Notebooks. Visit VanDerwater at her website. Follow her on Twitter @amylvpoemfarm.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

The Heart of Mi Familia by Carrie Lara

The Heart of Mi Familia

Carrie Lara, Author

Christine Battuz, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Nov. 10, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Bicultural families, Intergenerational relationships, Identity, Culture, Traditions, Bilingual

Opening: “In my home, two worlds become one. My family is a mix of dos culturas, I am bicultural.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

My mommy was born in the United States. My daddy was born in Central America. In, my home, two worlds become one.

Follow a young girl as she works with her abuela and her grandma to create a wonderful birthday present for her brother that celebrates her multicultural family and honors both sides and generations of her family. This follow up to the award winning Marvelous Maravilliso: Me and My Beautiful Family is a must-read for all families.

Why I like this book:

Carrie Lara has written a heartwarming story about a little girl who is proudly shares her bicultural family.  Her mother was born in the United States and her family traveled on a ship from Europe. Her dad was born in Central America and came to the US by bus with his parents as a boy. She shares her culturally-rich visits to her abuela’s home near the ocean during the summer months. And she visits her grandparent’s vineyard home in the autumn, when the pumpkins are ripe for picking.

The story is laced with a lot of Spanish words that children will easily remember. The girl shares how lucky she is to visit and celebrate two different cultures because she can include all those traditions — foods, music, games, artwork and language — at home in her own blended family gatherings.

This story is based on the author’s own bicultural family life experiences.  So she speaks from experience. It is a treasure for bicultural families to use as a discussion book with their children. Kids need to see themselves in stories. And, teachers will find creative ways to use it in their classrooms!  Christine Battuz’s illustrations are beautiful! They are colorful and happy, and love of family shines through each illustration.

Resources: There is a Reader’s Note to parents to help them work with their children to acknowledge the differences, encourage them to explore their cultural histories, talk about cultural identity and help them deal with discrimination.  A must read for teachers too!

Carrie Lara specializes in working with children and families on child and human development, including foster and adoptive youth, those with learning disabilities and special education, and children dealing with trauma, using attachment-based play therapy. She lives in Sonoma County, CA.  Visit her at FB @authorcarrielara.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Trevor and Me by Yuno Imai

Trevor and Me

Yuno Imai, Author

Liuba Syroliuk, Illustrator

Yumo Imai, Fiction, Jun. 16, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-9

Themes: Intergenerational friendship, Declining health, Loss, Grief, Inspirational

Opening: “Trevor is my best friend. With a shining smile like the sun, silver curly hair, and a wrinkled face He always wears his favorite red beret.”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Trevor and Me defies the boundaries of age, gender and race. It is a heartwarming story based on the real-life friendship between an elderly Caucasian man and a young Asian girl. As Trevor’s health starts to decline and he prepares to die, he promises to always be with the girl even after he’s gone. Trevor dies and the girl is filled with grief until one day she begins to receive signs to let her know Trevor is and always will be with her.

Why I like this book:

Trevor and Me is a celebration of life and portrays an afterlife in a non-religious, beautiful and gentle manner. It is an inspirational and poetic journey about the unbreakable friendship between a girl and her special grandfatherly friend, Trevor. They enjoy long walks in the park and stops at a café until one day the girl notices he is growing weak.  Trevor begins to prepare the girl for his death and promises to always watch over her.

Trevor and Me is based on the author’s own real-life experience with an elderly gentleman, named Trevor. It is with great love that she turns her experience into such an uplifting story to read and discuss with children who have lost a grandparent or family member. Trevor and Me brings hope and puts a smile on your face. Liuba Syroliuk’s delicate illustrations and beautiful watercolor illustrations evoke emotions of love, grief, and joy. Lovely collaboration.

Resources/Activities: Help children plant a special tree in memory of a loved one. Have them draw or write about special memories they had with the loved one so they won’t  forget. Make a memory box where you can put something special the belonged to a loved one side. You may want to add photos, card/letters written to the child by the loved one. This will help a child touch, read and look at the items so they keep their favorite memories alive.

Yuno Imai is a Los Angeles based children’s author, food and travel writer, and copy editor. She is also author of the book, The Last Meal. She is originally from Hamamatsu, Japan, and came to the United States as a high school foreign exchange student in a small Kansas town. After graduating from high school in Japan, she returned to the US to attend San Francisco State University. She graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She has over 10 years experience as a translator and has work extensively for major American and Japanese companies and celebrity clients. Visit Yuno at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a review.

Accordionly by Michael Genhart

Accordionly

Michael Genhart, Author

Priscilla Burris, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Apr. 21, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Biculturural families, Grandpas, Music, Connecting, Intergenerational relationships

Opening: “The accordion is a funny-looking instrument. Is it a little piano? Some kind of harmonica?”

Synopsis:

A boy’s abuelo plays the accordion in a mariachi band and he hoots and hollers louder than the rest.  His opa plays the accordion in a polka band and he belts out many yodels. They bring their accordions when they visit and the boy dances a folklórico or sometimes a polka.

But, when the grandpas visit at the same time, they can’t understand each other’s language and there is a lot of silence as they eat, work in the garden, play croquet, or take walks.

The grandson’s clever thinking helps the grandpas find a way for everyone to share the day together. And two cultures become one big happy family.

Why I like this book:

Genhart’s story is pure joy, from his storytelling to the cheerful and lively illustrations by Priscilla Burris. They are bold and colorful and shows how music breaks down barriers. Just look at that winning cover!

Genhart draws from his own biculturual family history to tell the tale of his two grandpas — one Mexican American and the other Swiss American. As does Burris, who is Mexican American and has a grandpa who plays an accordion.

This is a very clever idea for a book, as we all have bits of different cultures in our history.  And there are many of us who have chosen to create bicultural and multiracial families through adoption.  This book will have a far-reaching appeal to many families. It is such an uplifting and feel-good story.

Make sure you don’t miss the special fold-out page and a special Note from the Author at the end.

Resources: Have a discussion with your children about your interesting family heritage. Does anyone in your family play a musical instrument? (My grandmother played an accordion.) Introduce kids to familiar instruments like a piano, harmonica, saxophone, violin, flute, drum, and trumpet. And introduce them to the not-so-familiar instruments that include spoons, pots and pans, kazoo, xylophone,  and glasses filled with different levels of water. Let them have fun!

Michael Genhart, PhD. is the descendant of Mexican Americans and Swiss Americans, and is a licensed clinical psychologist in San Francisco. He has also written Rainbow: A First Book of Pride; Cake & I Scream!, Mac & Geeze, and Peanute Buttery & Jellyous; Ouch! Moments: When Words Are Used in Hurtful Ways; I See You; and So many Smarts! Visit Genhart at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for a review.

A Doll for Grandma: A Story about Alzheimer’s Disease by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey

A Doll for Grandma: A Story about Alzheimer’s Disease

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey, Author

Samantha Woo, Illustrator

Beaming Books, Fiction, May 5, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Grandparents, Memory, Nursing Homes, Intergenerational relationships, Love

Opening: “Kiera and Grandma always found ways to have fun together.” 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Kiera loves spending time with her grandma. They play dress up. They paint their nails. They make cookies for picnics with Kiera’s doll. But then Grandma starts to change. She starts misplacing items and forgetting how to do everyday tasks. Soon she has to move out of her home into a memory-care center for people with Alzheimer’s. She starts calling Kiera by a different name. Instead of driving around in her sporty car, her grandma travels in a wheelchair. Many times her Grandma stares out a window and doesn’t say much. Then Kiera has an idea and finds a new way to enjoy time with her Grandma.

Why I like this book:

A Doll for Grandma is heartwarming story for children facing a changing relationship with a beloved family member who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s difficult for adults to cope with, but even more confusing for a child. It is also a lovely story about one of my favorite topics — intergenerational relationships.

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey’s sensitive approach of telling the story through a child’s eyes  is so sweet and tender. Sharkey soothing narrative tells of the happy times together until one day Kiera finds her grandmother’s keys in the refrigerator. Other signs of memory issues appear. One day Kiera’s grandmother calls her “Sally Mae.” Kiera comes up with an idea that helps her connect with her grandmother.

Samantha Woo’s illustrations are cheerful and colorful. They lighten the mood on a heavy topic and focus on the positive. And they beautifully express the loving bond between Kiera and her grandmother.

Resource:  A special page with information on helping children understand Alzheimer’s disease written by expert Judy Cornish, the founder of the Dementia and Alzheimer’s Well Being Network® is included for family discussion. Parents will want to read the many uplifting suggestions that will help the entire family enhance their time together with a loved one.

Paulette Bochnig Sharkey is the author of dozens of articles and puzzles for children’s magazines. A Doll for Grandma is her debut picture book. Her inspiration for this story came from working as a volunteer pianist with memory-care residents and from caring for family members with dementia. Both brought moments of great joy and fulfillment. She lives in East Lansing, Michigan.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Earth Day, April 22, 2019
Theme for Earth Day — Protect our Species

Song for a Whale

Lynne Kelly, Author

Delacorte Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Feb. 5, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12 (adults will enjoy)

Pages: 299

Themes: Deaf girl, School, Whales, Grandmother, Communication, Hope, Travel

Synopsis:

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she’s the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she’s not very smart. If you’ve ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a hybrid whale (his mother a blue whale, his father a fin whale) who is unable to communicate with other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Most whales call out at frequencies of 35 hertz and lower, but Blue 55 sings at 55 hertz. His unique voice isn’t understood by the other whales. He has swum alone for decades with little contact with other whale pods or his family.

Iris has an idea to invent a way to “sing” to him. She uses her tech skills, works with the school musicians to record a song at Blue 55’s frequency, and mixes it with his own song. She sends it to a marine biologist from  an Alaskan sanctuary trying to tag Blue 55.  Iris hopes that sanctuaries will play it as he migrates along the west coast, so he can hear his song. The marine biologist responds enthusiastically and says she will play the recording. Iris wants to be there, but Blue 55 and the sanctuary are three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him? How will she see him?

Why I LOVE this book:

Lynn Kelly’s Song for a Whale is a captivating story about the connection between a deaf girl and a whale. Kelly is a remarkable storyteller who weaves together the parallel lives of these two unlikely characters, who are lonely and want to be heard. With Iris narrating, readers will gain insight into what it’s like to be deaf in a hearing world.

Iris’s quest to help Blue 55 hear his own song will melt your heart. It is so refreshing to read a novel about a spunky and determined deaf girl who uses her smarts and unique technical talents to improve the life and well-being of a whale that is lonely. Iris is a perfect role model for young people, who have their own struggles. She is also a reminder to readers that we each have our own inner strengths and abilities to make a difference in the world.

Iris’s bond with her deaf grandmother is the most interesting in the story — and I love intergenerational relationships. Her grandmother is a recent widow, who is dealing with her grief. It was exciting to watch her grandmother’s growth in the story as she begins to live again and heal. It adds a lot of lightness and humor to the story. Most important she understands and believes in Iris. There are many other memorable, lovable, quirky and flawed characters in the story, but my favorite was the grandmother.

The plot is fast-paced and engages readers from the first chapter. Time is of the essence for Iris, because Blue 55 could appear at any time, any where. When Iris’s parents tell her she can’t go to Alaska, her deaf grandmother steps in and secretly arranges the trip. Their trip to “the beach,” turns out to be to Alaska, unbeknownst to her parents. Iris and her karaoke-loving grandmother have a grand time together and new friendships are made. But when and where will Blue 55 surface. The suspense and the unexpected twists in the plot will have readers rapidly turning pages.

Resources: Make sure you read the information from the author about “Whale Communications and the 52-Hertz Whale’ at the end of the book  She also includes information about “Deafness and Sign Language.” This book is a timely share for Earth Day — Protect our Species.

Lynne Kelly’s work as a sign language interpreter has taken her everywhere from classrooms to hospitals to Alaskan cruises. Her first novel, the award-winning Chained, was named to seven state reading lists and won the SCBWI’S Crystal Kite Award. She liver near Houston, Texas, with her adorable dog, Holly. Visit Lynne Kelly at her website.

Favorite Quote:

“I was the one who was lonely, and I’d wanted the whale to hear me,” said Iris. Page 261

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.