Thursday 16 July 2015

Heroes of the Wild: The Whale who Saved Us

Heroes of the Wild: The Whale who Saved Us by Nicola Davies, illustrations by Annabel Wright (Walker Books)
PB RRP $11.95
ISBN 9781406356106

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Suki is a young Inuit girl in trouble at school after hitting a boy who released a scathing attack on her older brother Levi, who has now run away. Suki and Levi are one of the many young Inuit caught between the old world and its teachings, and the new electronic age. Without jobs and no hope, many come to a bad end.

Levi and the preacher’s son try to commit suicide due to their feelings of hopelessness, but Suki’s mother doesn’t tell her this. She simply says he’s in trouble and she is going to him. Suki is sent to her Granny Jaiku whom she hasn’t seen in years, at Whale Bay in the Arctic Circle.

She initially feels like a stranger. In no time, there is a shift in her opinion as she experiences the challenges of the old life with Granny and her brother Noah. Seal hunting, fishing, how to clean and prepare her catch, and eat raw fish instead of take away. She also learns about the sled dogs which many people have stopped keeping due to motorised transport, how to feed and harness them, drive the sled, and build an igloo.

She also finds out about Levi. Grief-stricken, she wants to go to him but knows she can’t.

She slips into life at Whale Bay as if she was born to it. The language comes back to her from childhood. It slips into her mind as if it had never left, but waited unused like her interest in life, which now reawakened.

Suki wishes she could share all the beauty and the zest for life she’s discovered in Whale Bay, with Levi who now lies in a coma. Noah produces an old tape recorder and a brilliant idea. Will her voice have the power to reach into Levi’s mind and bring him back from his faraway place? Is the sighting of the first bowhead whale for years, a sign that Levi will live?

In the following weeks, the recordings flow to Levi’s bedside without result. Could the sound of the bowhead blow be strong enough to save the now dying Levi as it has the almost dead Inuit community?

The story’s main theme is the power and force of love and nature, to move far beyond human understanding and create miracles. It’s about roots and identity and claiming who you are, while focusing on the effect of hopelessness on both people and the environment with the bowhead whale as the centrepiece. Aimed at the 7+ year age group, The Whale that Saved Us is for all ages. Its rich Inuit background information, defined words and six pages of facts about bowhead whales, calls attention to the over-hunting of whales on the Inuit communities and their environment. Look out for the other titles in the Heroes of the Wild series.

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