SONG FOR A WHALE, by Lynne Kelly, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, Feb. 5, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
In Song for a Whale, by Lynne Kelly, a young girl discovers her voice without saying a word.
Iris is 12 years old and can fix anything mechanical, but what she loves more than anything is repairing old radios. She’s got a gift, but most people don’t see that. Most people tend to focus on what Iris can’t do — hear.
Being the only deaf student in her school makes Iris feel like she’s swimming alone in an ocean. Maybe that’s why she feels such a connection with Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to communicate with other whales. She knows exactly what it’s like for him.
Iris wants to do something for Blue 55. After all, she can at least sign with her family, deaf friends and interpreter. Then she gets an idea — what if she could invent a way to “sing” to him. If she records it at the right frequency, then he should be able to hear it. The only problem is Blue 55 lives in the Pacific and she’s in Texas, but Iris isn’t about to let that get in her way.
A Song for a Whale is a very solitary feeling book. Because Iris is so cut off from those around her, there’s a very introspective feel to it. And though readers may not understand what being deaf is like, they will invariably see part of their lives reflected in Iris’.
There are a few elements of Song for a Whale that were a bit of a stretch for me, but those parts had nothing to do with Iris’ hearing. Instead theses reality-stretching pieces had more to do with how Iris goes about making her dream happen. I don’t want to give away the plot, but I will say that I’m looking at these bits through the eyes of an adult and parent. I don’t think they’ll bother young readers at all.
Author Lynne Kelly is not deaf, but she does work as a sign language interpreter and has a better understanding than most of what life as a deaf person is like. I appreciate the section at the end of her novel where she goes into more detail on the subject.
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