if you want to see a whale

If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

The incredible partnership that brought you And Then It’s Spring last year has recreated a similar magic in their second book together.  In this book, a young boy heads to the sea to try to spot a whale.  There are things that you must have to see a whale, one is time to wait and another is a way to not get too comfortable and doze off while waiting.  There are also things that you must ignore, like sweet pink roses that want you to look at them or boats that are floating by or insects crawling in the grass.  Just keep your eyes on the sea and wait.  And then…

Fogliano’s writing is poetry.  She lets us wander into distractions, taking our own eyes off the sea to explore the grass, the roses and the clouds in the sky.  Her pacing is delicious, making us wait for the payoff in the end in a way that doesn’t promise anything other than the wait and the sea itself.  It is that wait and that meander that makes this book so wonderful.  In other words, she makes the book about the journey, about being in the moment, about noticing.

Stead’s illustrations are done in her signature style with fine lines and organic colors that seem to come from childhood crayons.  Adding the friendly dog into the story works well, he serves as another pair of eyes both watching for the whale and being distracted. 

Lovely, simple and filled with charm, this picture book is thoughtful, quiet and worth the wait.   Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.