The Whale, by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow; Candlewick Press, 32 pages, $17.99.
It’s puzzling that the world’s largest mammals are also the most difficult to see, yet the thrill to observe them has gripped the minds of ocean-goers for centuries. In this mostly wordless picture book by debut author-illustrator duo Ethan and Vita Murrow, a pair of intrepid youngsters set out to prove the existence of the Great Spotted Whale, a mysterious beast sighted fifty years ago, but never confirmed. Readers have no choice but to dive right in alongside the plucky voyagers as they gather all sorts of equipment, ready their vessel, and after capsizing their boat, finally lay eyes on the magnificent animal.
Ethan Murrow’s graphite black-and white illustrations are meticulously rendered, evoking the gray, salty sea-spray-covered ocean landscape and all the flotsam therein. The Whale celebrates a quixotic accomplishment with an amazing tale that radiates youthful energy, and should be part of any explorer’s library. Here’s hoping the Murrows set their sights on another project soon, and invite us along their next great adventure.
A Whale in the Bathtub, by Kylie Westaway, illustrated by Tom Jellett; Clarion Books, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-6.
Little Bruno has cried wolf (or in this case, walrus), one time too many regarding bathtime impediments. But now, there really is something in the tub; a huge blue whale bathing in bubblegum-scented soap bubbles, and Bruno’s family won’t fall for his tall tales anymore. How’s a boy to get clean when a 100-ton kroll-crunching mammal is blocking your way? Bruno’s solution will charm young readers and perhaps spark a little creative thinking as well. Debut picture-book author Kylie Westaway deftly captures the child’s despair at not being believed, while fellow debutant Tom Jellett’s plucky, quirky illustrations have a distinct, slightly retro flair. Prepare for a whale of adventure on the soapy high seas.