Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Welcome Home

Welcome Home by Christina Booth (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $26.95 PB RRP $16.95
HB ISBN 978-1925000085 PB ISBN 978-1925000092
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

Welcome Home is an important book about an issue that is not always easy to convey in children’s literature, but author and illustrator – Christina Booth – has carved a story so rich in meaning and message that it should be read to every generation.

Welcome Home is told through the eyes of a young, nameless boy. Every day he hears the calls of a female whale echoing down the river, softly lapping at the mountains. The boy listens intently as her calls change from pure joy to sadness and pain. Trying to decipher the calls that only he can hear, the boy feels the whale’s pain and listens to her story.

The whale carries history to the river – a place where her ancestors were once driven out by early settler whalers, mindlessly slaughtered and displaced. The boy feels it all, as the whale comes to him every day, searching for meaning and forgiveness, and a return to the place they once called home.

The whale tells the boy that they wanted to come home but they did not feel safe and the boy hangs his head. Saddened by what the men had done to her, he whispers a soft sorry as she swims away, her flukes clapping like thunder.

But the next day, as if the boy’s sorry was enough for her to feel safe again, the whale returns to the river with a call that is gentle and soft. The boy sees that the call was not meant for him this time, but the small baby whale that she has given birth to in the river. The boy and bystanders watch as the whale and her child swim through the waters, full of forgiveness and new beginnings. She tells the boy that they are safe now, and he welcomes them home.

Booth tells the story in a soft and unobtrusive way, but still her message is heard. The warm, forgiving and endearing nature of the whales, and the understanding and connectedness of the boy, which she paints so poetically, are powerful enough to show the mindless nature of whaling and what is needed to move forward. The words Booth chooses are nothing short of perfect and beautiful. But it is her illustrations that are a form of poetry in themselves – soft, washed out watercolours, intricately telling with their hues of grey, white, black and blue. They are images that tell of the whales joy and pain and of a future that does not need to be so horrific.

This important book is the perfect catalyst for educating and introducing children to the effects of whaling, to instil in them a care for our natural world and to spread the story that we must care for our animal world. It is a story perfect for the classroom and the family bookshelf, but one that should be read to adults and children alike. 

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