Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue

Trapped! A Whale’s Rescue

Robert Burleigh
Illustrator:   Wendell Minor 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Charlesbridge, 2015   ISBN: 978-1580895583

A large, powerful humpback whale has swum down “from icy Arctic seas to the California coast” where she feeds on krill. She breeches, slaps the water with her tail and dives. What she doesn’t know until it is too late is that crab fishermen have left nets in the water. The whale gets entangled in the nets and in the ropes that hold them together. The ropes cut into her skin and she begins to sink, fighting for air. She is exhausted and trapped.

   Then a team of divers arrives on the scene. This whale is lucky for help is at hand. Carefully the divers cut the ropes that are wrapped around the whale. They work diligently in the frigid water until the last rope and piece of netting falls away. The whale is free.

   This story is based on a real whale rescue that took place off the California coast in December, 2006. Fishermen saw the whale in distress and radioed the local marine-mammal center for help. Soon divers and whale experts arrived. For nearly an hour the divers worked to free the whale from twenty ropes that were wrapped around her body. After she was freed the whale “slowly encircled the rescuers, gently touching each one.”

   Throughout the book a spare yet moving narrative is paired with Wendell Minor’s remarkable illustrations to give young readers a story that is uplifting and heartwarming. All too often wild animal interactions with humans end with an animal being harmed, but in this case humans were able to save, and connect with, a very large wild animal.

   At the back of the book readers will find further information about this particular whale rescue and how whale rescues in general are conducted. There is also a section about humpback whales and a list of “Did You Know?” facts that children will enjoy exploring.