Friday, 19 July 2013

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 19th July 2013 - "The Storm Whale" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster)

“O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies! Not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind” 
"Moby Dick" - Herman Melville.

We had a feeling that Benji Davies' utterly beautiful and melancholy "The Storm Whale" might become a book of the week. Watching Benji's tweets recently, catching glimpses of the artwork gave us an inkling. But far from just being wowed by the perfect illustrations in this book it's the story that strikes the deepest bass-note chord. 

The joy of reviewing children's books, or having any involvement in them, is that moment when children sneak a book out of the shelves to read themselves. Charlotte was completely charmed by this book, as was I, but it's the fact that she wanted to read it, enjoy it, and gain her own perspective on it independent of my reading it to her that meant it had to be this week's book of the week. Perhaps also, still fresh in her mind was our holiday where we saw real Pilot Whales out in the wild, and got soaked to the skin by a killer whale splashing us with his mightiness at a theme park.

When I asked Charlotte about the book, she talked a lot about the young boy in the story - Noi - who leads what might be perceived by some as a fairly bleak existence on a remote island. Dad is the only parent (in evidence at least) and he's away all day every day until late at night, fishing the seas. So Noi becomes the tiny master of his own universe, the island is his, his level-headedness keeps him safe but his curiosity and love of his surroundings means that he always finds something to do. 

The book opens with a fabulous page which had us spotting Noi's six cats (if you can spot the grey one, well done you!) but after a huge rattling storm, Noi goes to investigate the jetsam washed up on the beach. Spotting something unusual in the distance, Noi rushes to find out what it is - and finds a tiny baby whale. 

"AWWWW!" said Charlotte. She was completely in love with the whale from the moment she set eyes on the cover. Perhaps it was the fact that Noi, well meaningly, sneaks the whale home to keep it moist in the bath (a snug fit, even for a tiny whale!)

Noi fears what will happen when his father gets home, and despite Noi's best efforts (plus a sneaky fish supper), Noi's father does indeed discover the whale. 

What happens next? I think we've already said too much. Like all the books we review, we get the most pleasure from letting you discover the answers yourselves (and we always want to know what YOU think! Don't be shy, that's what comments boxes and Twitter are for!)

Benji is fast establishing himself as a leading light in children's books, his illustrations are perfect, beautiful, charming and lovely. His characters are instantly endearing. His stories are important, for here we learn more about Noi's loneliness, the tough gig that is being a single parent, and why we need to take better care of our planet and the animals we share it with, than you might expect from a children's book (and I defy anyone to use the term "Children's book" derisively, given the utterly fantastic year we've had in children's books so far, and it's a long way from being over yet). 

I know, you were expecting a bit of a gushing review for a book of the week but this book is wonderful and you really, really need it, trust us.

"The Storm Whale" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books), is released on 15th August 2013 in paperback

Charlotte's best bit: The whale in the bath. If it's possible to imbue a whale with an expression of being a size 12 squeezed into a size 8, Benji captured it perfectly :)

Daddy's favourite bit: You can almost hear the sea lapping against the shore, the whale song, and Noi's excited chatter as he finds the whale and tries to take care of it. A book that feels like it sneakily moves in your peripheral vision, whispering its story to you. Utterly, utterly sublime in every way. 

(Kindly sent to us for review by Simon and Schuster Children's Books)