Song for a Whale, Book Review

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Iris was born deaf. It runs in her family as both of her maternal grandparents are deaf as well. The disability seemed to have skipped a generation, so Iris is the only one in her home that is deaf, her mother and older brother know American Sign Language but her father still struggles with communicating with her as he says that languages are not his thing but numbers are, eye roll.

She attends a regular public school that is full of “normal” kids, she is the only one who has to around with an interpreter, it is hard for Iris to fit in. One day, in science class the teacher plays a video about a hybrid whale who goes by Blue 55, he has yet to be tagged and is only followed by his unique song.

Blue 55 is the son of two different kinds of whales so his song doesn’t match any other whale songs. He cannot communicate to the other whales. Therefore, he is alone in the dark waters of the Pacific without a family or pod, a group of whales.

Iris cannot help but compare 55’s story to her own. Being so alone in the world, feeling like no one is listening or there to understand. She feels like she must help this whale who is four thousand miles away from her home in Texas. Iris must find a way to communicate with this whale and let him know that he is not alone in this universe, other’s relate to his struggle with communication.

The characters in this book were alright. I had to keep reminding myself that this book is middle grade and that Iris is twelve years old. I have to say most people that age are annoying, trust me, I know because I was an annoying twelve year old before. You think that you know everything but you don’t. That being said, I think that it is okay that Iris is this way as it is typical for someone her age.

Now, the parents, that’s another story. First, the dad not taking the time to learn sign language to be able to communicate with his daughter just makes me mad. In this book she meets a friend who wants to learn right away but her own father doesn’t!! Then there is the mother who does not want to let Iris go to the deaf school where she would be around her peers because the mother does not want to feel alone. What? Wouldn’t you want your kid to have friends? Come on. I gave the character’s a four out of five as I felt like our main character was realistically written.

The atmosphere in this book is nothing special. We start in Houston, I felt like it was a smaller town so maybe the family is out in the suburbs. Once we get to the traveling aspects of the book the atmosphere gets better. Nothing to write home about,   an average three out of five.

The writing isn’t great either, very, we did this and then we did that. I understand that this is middle grade so that writing style might be easier for the age range to understand. I also felt like we had jumps between chapters with no explanation of what happened between the two scenes, that leaves readers confused. Writing is a two out of five.

Throughout the story, I do feel like there were several contradictions. Yes, there are several similarities between Iris and Blue 55 but she has a family and he has none, she does have friends when he isn’t is in a pod. That is just one example.

With the main character of this book being deaf we do get that disability representation. As I am not deaf I cannot tell you if it was properly done but the writer, Lynne Kelly, does work as a sign language interpreter and seems to have a lot of experience working with those who do have hearing impairments. It really opened my eyes to how frustrating it must be to be deaf.

I would not say that I enjoyed this novel but it did not bore me either, God bless short chapters. The parents did bug me a lot but we are seeing them from the point of a view of a tween and I feel like most tweens do see their parents as annoying. All that aside, I do think this book would be something good for young people to read. As it does bring representation to the deaf community and that was something as an adult that I have never read before. It also shows you that nothing is impossible and if you really work than you can reach your dreams even if there are a few bumps in the road, they just make  you more determined.

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