The Storm Whale by Benji Davies
Noi lives with his father in a house by the sea with six cats. Every day, his father goes out fishing, leaving Noi alone all day long. One day, after a big storm, Noi sees something out on the beach. It’s a baby whale. Noi knows it will not live long without water, so he takes the whale home and puts it in the bathtub. He spends time with the whale, telling it stories. But he also worries that his father will be angry when he finds a whale in the house. So Noi tries to keep the whale a secret from his father, but it doesn’t last for long. A whale is a big secret to keep in a small family. Together, the two of them return the whale to the sea, but not before they each learn something about one another and how to move forward as a stronger family.
Davies manages to tell a profound story using minimal words. The text in the book mainly explains the action that is happening. It does not offer insight into the emotions of the characters. That is a large part of the power of this book. So much goes unsaid but is clear to the reader. Noi’s loneliness is shown rather than told. Him lingering by the window as his father leaves, the fact that he brings the whale home across a stretch of beach rather than pushing him back into the nearby water. Even the father’s reaction is shown this way, allowing the emotions to be realized rather than explained.
The illustrations tell much of the story here, but again in a quiet and frank manner. The emotions are not broadcast from the character’s faces but from their situations and their body language. It’s a brave way to tell a story about a father and son reconnecting with one another.
Adeptly conceived and powerful, this picture book speaks to loneliness and family, and would be great as a discussion book for young children about emotions. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.