Song for a Whale

February 20, 2019 ARC, Book Review 1

I received this ARC from Publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Song for a WhaleSong for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Published by Random House Children's Books on February 5, 2019
Pages: 320
Source: ARC from Publisher

In the spirit of modern-day classics like Fish in a Tree and Counting by 7s comes the story of a deaf girl's connection to a whale whose song can't be heard by his species, and the journey she takes to help him.

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 real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to "sing" to him! But he's three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

Full of heart and poignancy, this affecting story by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly shows how a little determination can make big waves.

"Fascinating, brave, and tender...a triumph." --Katherine Applegate, Newbery Award-winning author of The One and Only Ivan

"Beautifully written and such an important story for kids with big struggles in their lives. I fell into Iris's world from the first chapter. Lynne Kelly does an amazing job telling the story from Iris's perspective." --Millicent Simmonds, actress, Wonderstruck and A Quiet Place

"Quick-moving, suspenseful...this remains a satisfying, energetic read. Iris' adventures will engross readers." --Kirkus Reviews

"This finely crafted novel affectingly illuminates issues of loneliness, belonging, and the power of communication." --Publishers Weekly

My Thoughts:

I’ve been making an effort to read more middle grade books this school year. When I got an email this past Fall asking if I was interested in reading Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly, I jumped at the chance. And I am so glad I did! (Check out my interview with the author here.)

There were so many things to love about this book. At the top of my list is Iris. She is a smart, interesting, dedicated, compassionate character and I loved reading about her. I especially loved seeing her relationship with her grandmother develop and change. I also loved her obsession with repairing and restoring old radios! It was so interesting.

Iris is deaf. I appreciated the aspects of deaf culture that Kelly included in the story. Looking in as an outsider, there were many things I had never thought about… like how poetry would be different or the fact that you can sign “like and old person” versus using slang. (I would really love to see a review of this book from someone in the deaf community. As I said, mine is an outsiders perspective.)

Middle school me would have been all over this book for the whale aspect. (Of course I wanted to be a marine biologist!) I totally would have dreamed up ways I could be like Iris and try to help Blue 55. Current day me was still invested in the whales story. I loved the notes at the back that talked about the real whale Blue 55 is based off of.

Finally, I really appreciated the way Song for a Whale looked at grief and the different ways people handle it. I was not expecting that from this story and thought it was beautifully done.

Song for a Whale is a heartfelt middle grade read. I cannot wait to get a copy in my school libraries!

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