Song for a Whale

304p. Random. Feb. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781524770235.
Gr 4–6—Twelve-year-old Iris has a passion for electronics and repairing antique radios. She's a strong student, too, except when she is hampered by the frustrations of being the only Deaf student in her classes. One day, Iris's science class watches a video about a whale named Blue 55, a hybrid blue/fin whale with an extremely unique voice; the sounds he makes are around 55 hertz, unlike most other whales, which communicate at much lower frequencies. Moved by Blue 55's very familiar struggle to communicate, Iris becomes determined to compose a song for Blue 55 at his frequency, and to play it for him in person. This mission involves a journey from her Houston home to Appleton, AK, that, miraculously, her widowed Grandma agrees to secretly arrange. Readers will need to suspend some disbelief in order to buy Iris's adventure as realistic fiction, but the nuances of her personality make her a compelling protagonist. Iris's depth of empathy, the joy she feels working with radios, and the skillful way she navigates two different worlds of communication create an authenticity that will resonate with Deaf and hearing readers alike. The paralyzing effects of grief are also addressed through Grandma. Gradual healing is depicted in a natural, healthy way, as Grandma turns away from isolation and begins using her talents, doing things that make her happy, and spending time with a loved one (Iris).
VERDICT An uplifting tale that's a solid addition to most collections; especially recommended for libraries needing stronger representation of Deaf protagonists, which will be most.

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