Happy Friday! Today’s review is another fairly impressive middle-grade book that I read toward the end of 2019. Song for a Whale features a deaf protagonist, a boatload of science, and, of course, a whale.
About the Book
Title: Song for a Whale
Author: Lynne Kelly
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Synopsis: 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.
Song for a Whale is another middle-grade novel that caught me by surprise at the end of 2019. I loved the way that this book features a deaf character, and you learn a lot about Deaf culture through her, but her deafness is not her only quality. Iris is a wonderfully complex character. She faces some unique struggles but is not set up to be exotic. It is certainly important to the story that Iris is deaf but it is equally important that she is impulsive, good with electronics, and tender-hearted. One character cannot make a story, and I am so glad this book went beyond that.
That said, Iris does have several irritating qualities. Granted, she’s a middle schooler, so most of the irritating things she does are things that I could see my younger self considering. For example, Iris is incredibly single-minded. When she gets an idea she will stop at nothing until it is carried out as much as possible. This is good, except that she almost never considers the consequences of her actions. Her heart is usually in the right place: she wants to reach out to those who are ignored or misunderstood…much how she feels. However – she takes off halfway across the country without telling her parents?? Even though her Grandma is with her, I still got hung up on that. She disrespects her parents with her actions and does whatever she wants without listening to anyone else. This is not an attitude that I would want to encourage! Even though everything turns out well for Iris, her family, and the whale she so desperately wants to help, I’m bothered by Iris’ disregard for those around her.
Overall, Song for a Whale is a very cool book. It talks a lot about deaf culture and whales, so it’s not the typical middle school drama novel that I was afraid it might be. The writing is perfect for the level, the characters are complex, and the subject(s) both unique and overdue. I am very glad I read this book, but I would be careful giving it to anyone who might be influenced by Iris’ irresponsibility. It is a good read for the responsible preteen or young teen.
As a whole, I am impressed by the quality of middle-grade novels I found at the end of 2019. I might start reading more on this level, as there seems to be an abundance of clean stories that are much more unique than the majority of young adult or regular contemporary novels these days. These are books that remain upbeat while handling unique challenges very well. I look forward to finding more!
Until the next chapter,