Maybe a Whale

Maybe a Whale

Written by: Pendreigh, Kirsten
Illustrated by: Smith, Crystal
ages 3 and up / grades P and up

After Grandpa dies, a girl and her mother take the trip he had planned for her, kayaking along the Pacific west coast to look for the whales that he loved.

The trip will do them good, Mom says, but the girl isn’t sure. How can that be true when Grandpa isn’t there? And how will they find a whale in all that water, anyway?

There is so much to see as they paddle through white-tipped waves and calm coves: glowing moon jellies, fluttering anemones and slippery seals. All the while, the girl watches for whales. Could one be swimming beneath their kayak or along the shore of their camp? Are the whales even there? 

Finally, in the dark of night, they hear them — pushhhhhhhh, pushhhhhhh — humpbacks breathing in the bay. 

In this lyrical story, luminously illustrated by Crystal Smith, mom and daughter find the space to grieve Grandpa and reconnect with each other in the wild beauty of nature. And they come to realize that — perhaps like whales — those we’ve loved are always with us, even if we don’t see them anymore.

 

Key Text Features

illustrations

 

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3

Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.4

Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7

Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

After Grandpa dies, a girl and her mother take the trip he had planned for her, kayaking along the Pacific west coast to look for the whales that he loved.

The trip will do them good, Mom says, but the girl isn’t sure. How can that be true when Grandpa isn’t there? And how will they find a whale in all that water, anyway?

There is so much to see as they paddle through white-tipped waves and calm coves: glowing moon jellies, fluttering anemones and slippery seals. All the while, the girl watches for whales. Could one be swimming beneath their kayak or along the shore of their camp? Are the whales even there? 

Finally, in the dark of night, they hear them — pushhhhhhhh, pushhhhhhh — humpbacks breathing in the bay. 

In this lyrical story, luminously illustrated by Crystal Smith, mom and daughter find the space to grieve Grandpa and reconnect with each other in the wild beauty of nature. And they come to realize that — perhaps like whales — those we’ve loved are always with us, even if we don’t see them anymore.

 

Key Text Features

illustrations

 

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3

Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.4

Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7

Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

Published By Groundwood Books Ltd — Aug 1, 2023
Specifications 36 pages | 8.625 in x 11.25 in
Supporting Resources
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Guide
Written By

KIRSTEN PENDREIGH is a children’s author and poet from Vancouver, BC. Her books celebrate our early instincts to care for the plants and creatures that share our planet. She is the author of Luna’s Green Pet, illustrated by Carmen Mok. Kirsten’s poems can be found in Canadian literary magazines and in Best Canadian Poetry 2021. Formerly a CBC and NPR journalist, Kirsten also writes non-fiction for children.

Illustrated by

CRYSTAL SMITH is the daughter of a lighthouse keeper who discovered her passion for wildlife when she was small. She illustrates the natural world to spark curiosity and wonder, kindle concern and illuminate issues. She has also illustrated Mother Aspen, written by Annette LeBox. Crystal currently lives in Victoria, BC.

Written By

KIRSTEN PENDREIGH is a children’s author and poet from Vancouver, BC. Her books celebrate our early instincts to care for the plants and creatures that share our planet. She is the author of Luna’s Green Pet, illustrated by Carmen Mok. Kirsten’s poems can be found in Canadian literary magazines and in Best Canadian Poetry 2021. Formerly a CBC and NPR journalist, Kirsten also writes non-fiction for children.

Illustrated by

CRYSTAL SMITH is the daughter of a lighthouse keeper who discovered her passion for wildlife when she was small. She illustrates the natural world to spark curiosity and wonder, kindle concern and illuminate issues. She has also illustrated Mother Aspen, written by Annette LeBox. Crystal currently lives in Victoria, BC.

Audience ages 3 and up / grades P and up
Key Text Features

illustrations

Common Core CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3

Commended, Horn Book Fanfare, 2023

This story [will] remind readers of the unpredictability of life.

” —New York Times

A quiet, comforting story.

” —Wall Street Journal

Illustrations with watery backgrounds blur the line between sea and sky, showing mother and daughter in fog and rain, at twilight and dawn—in liminal moments that echo their grief … A tender testament to love and loss. STARRED REVIEW

” —Horn Book

Pendreigh’s evocative text alternates between narration and the protagonist’s inner thoughts, offering excellent conversation starters for helping children deal with loss.

” —Kirkus

Smith's depictions ... are jaw-dropping. A moving meditation on grief.

” —School Library Journal

Smith’s impressionistic art style breathes life into Pendreigh’s lyrical text in this moving picture book about the strong connection between grandfather and granddaughter.

” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Told with an understated sensitivity, Maybe a Whale offers readers a lesson on grieving and the value of fulfilling promises even to the dead. Told with great care and supported by lovely illustrations that take the reader into the world of northern waters and whales, this is a life lesson to readers.

” —Children's Literature Comprehensive Database

A poignant story of a grieving mother and daughter who find solace in nature and in each other’s company. A range of emotions — sorrow, wonder, peace — are lyrically intertwined and expressed.

” —Canadian Children’s Book News