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The Whales' Song by Dyan Sheldon and Illustrated by Gary Blythe
For those of you that haven't had the pleasure of seeing this book yet, I would recommend you pick it up and just take a peek.
This children's book is one of the most beautifully illustrated books I've ever seen in my life. The first time I was introduced to it was in my first year at university during a Children's literature module. I was blown away by it then and again just recently when I stumbled across it in a charity shop. For the price of 50p it was coming home with me to be introduced to my grand-daughter. She is only 17months but loves her books and being read to.
~~~~Price & Availability~~~~
The book is priced at £4.99 ( which I believe to be a very good price ) however it is available on amazon for the sale price of £3.97 new or as little as 1p for a used copy.
~~~~ The Story~~~~
The story is of a little girl called Lilly who is told a story by her grandmother. A story of a time when 'the ocean was filled with whales.' The opening description of the whales is simple yet powerful and captures children's imaginations from the very beginning. Lilly's grandmother tells her how she would sit and wait for them when she was younger and how they would find her because of a special gift she would throw into the sea. The descriptions of the gifts are lovely and conjure up wonderful imagines. When asked by Lilly what they gave back her grandmother replies 'I heard them sing' - these words are the last words on the page and make any children want to turn the page quickly to hear more.
The following page introduces an abrupt uncle who changes the tone of the story to a 'no-nonsense / matter of fact' style. His rudeness doesn't stop Lilly's dreams being flooded with images of the whales and their songs.
We follow her in the morning to the jetty where her special gift is offered and then her patiently waiting until dusk. The return of the rude uncle and his stern words end her day but not her watching. That night she hears something that makes her look out of her window. She races back to the ocean and the scene that unfolds before her is magical.
The story isn't very long - 12 pages - in total but the magical element is full of warmth and charm that will touch any reader.
~~~~ The Illustrations~~~~
Gary Blythe received The Kate Greenaway Medal for the illustrations of this book. His pictorial images are truly magnificent. They have an oil-painting effect about them that pulls you right into the frame.
His use of colours move from dreamy tones to vivid splashes that shout reality from the roof-tops. The expressions on Lilly's face are so life-like that my grand-daughter (even at her age) was transfixed. The manner in which Blythe captures the loving looks between grand-mother and child is heart-warming and has an 'ahhh' factor of 10/10.
I was particularly impressed with the bird's eye view of his illustration that captures the uncle marching away from Lilly and her grand-mother. This captured the change in tone of the story so well but also highlights the closeness of the two as they watch him leave.
My favourite image of all is the very last one of Lilly as she is listening to the whales. Blythe has gently lit the side of her face with moonlight. This gives a haunting but stunning feel to the ending. This picture also reminds me of my little grand-daughter - her dark eyes and curly hair frame the soft pretty features of Lilly in the same way.
Blythe's illustrations are worth buying the book on its own, however, the magical descriptions from Sheldon compliment the images to make this a knockout combination.
Without a doubt - this is one book every child should have on the book shelf. It will inspire and engage readers of all ages.
Thanks for reading
X hev (also on ciao)