As the title suggests, this book offers advice for what to do and what not to do if you want to see a whale. For instance:
if you want to see a whale
you will need a window
and an ocean
and time for waiting
there’s no time to watch a pelican
who may or may not be smiling
By instructing readers “not to notice” clouds or roses or small things, the narrator is actually opening our eyes to the wonders of watchful waiting as we travel with a boy, a bird, and a dog on a journey that includes a pirate ship, clouds, and “things that are smaller than most small things.” At the journey’s end, patient waiting “with both eyes open” pays off for readers who have been hoping to see the whale. (My preschooler was so excited when the whale appeared that she jumped off my lap: "There's the whale! It's the whale!")
Poetic text captures the elegance of nature with pauses and restrained rhythms that never feel forced. Alliteration and repetition make word combinations like “possible pirates” and “because sleeping eyes can’t watch for whales/and whales won’t wait for watching” a joy to read aloud. Seriously, read that again out loud. Doesn't it trip off your tongue in a way that makes you want to repeat it?
Erin Stead’s quiet illustrations in muted colors reinforce the mood of the text. Uncluttered pictures with ample white space invite readers to stop and look and watch. The barefoot boy, wearing a folded-newspaper hat, and his animal friends observe nature in artwork that has a timeless quality.
A small, unassuming trim size works perfectly for the story and the imprint of the whale on the book’s front cover is the kind of detail that helps make this book memorable.
If You Want to See a Whale
by Julie Fogliano
illustrated by Erin Stead
published by Roaring Brook Press