Review Blog

May 31 2017

Storm whale by Sarah Brennan

cover image

Ill. by Jane Tanner. Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760293642
(Age: Primary middle years) Hardcover, 32 pages. Themes: Whales- fiction, Conservation, Siblings.
Bleak was the day and the wind whipped down when my sisters and I walked to town . . .
Sarah Brennan's narrative verse is a powerful, driven story of three sisters who try to rescue a whale stranded on a windswept beach. Her beautifully evocative phrases filled with alliteration and colourful descriptions are crisp and clipped. They need to be read aloud. She builds the tension driving the story forward as the three sisters battle the elements to save the stranded whale - scarred old mariner, beached in hell, far from the cradling ocean swell. Brennan's memories of Tasmania summer holidays on wet and windy beaches provided the inspiration for Storm Whale.
The story celebrates the close bond of sisterhood as each draws strength from the other, to frantically keep the whale bathed in seawater. They show resilience and dogged determination fighting an epic struggle in the stormy conditions. Without any adult intervention, they finally return home, nearly defeated, unsure about the large mammal's fate. They find comfort in each other, wrapped in warm blankets by the glowing fire and wait for the morning unsure of the outcome. Their freedom to explore the storm-ravaged beach on their own and search for the whale, without a parent, might be confronting to some readers.
Jane Tanner's powerful illustrations, changing from pencil sketches to sweeping painted scenes powerfully enhance Brennan's emotional tale. From hope to near despondence, her textured paintings bring to life the sisters' elemental fight against the driving rain. She creates the moodiness, the contrast of darkness and light, of cold and warmth perfectly depicting Brennan's story.
Storm Whale is an ideal picture book for older readers who enjoy rhyming narratives. The rich, emotive language and wonderful illustrations are suitable for Middle Years classes studying styles of poetry, identifying how language choices and imagery build emotional connection and engagement with this story.
Rhyllis Bignell

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