We are lucky enough to live only one street from the ocean. On still days we can sit in the back yard and listen to the waves and a short stroll will have us digging in sand and looking for crabs. I’ve always loved the beach but being so close and spending so much time leisurely exploring the ocean has developed a special feeling of connection and respect for the sea. It’s also filled our house with shells and ocean rocks. Every day brings new treasure and while we are yet to catch sight of a whale (we seem to always be that little bit too early or late) we eagerly look every time we go.
Jesse gave us Emma And The Whale by Julie Case when we first moved here and it perfectly matches our new found reverence for the ocean.
Emma is a young girl who lives in an old crooked house, but she doesn’t mind because it’s near the ocean, and that is her favourite place to be.
‘After school, Emma always took her dog, Nemo, to play at the beach. They combed the shore for shells and stones and sea glass. At low tide, that’s when they found the best treasures.
Sometimes Emma saw whales in the water. Sometimes she saw dolphins, and once a loggerhead turtle. She liked to picture an ocean teeming with life, with no balloons or bottles spit to shore.’
The magic and mystery of the ocean solidifies one foggy day when Emma discovers a beached baby whale.
Emma empathises and develops a special connection with the frightened baby. With a clear head and determination in a difficult situation Emma manages to get the baby free, a near superhuman feat. Emma is caught in the magic of the moment as the baby is reunited with its mother.
‘Emma remained in the shallowest water. Nemo lingered on the sand. “Nemo!” Emma shouted, and ran to her dog. She hugged him tightly, and they started for home.’
It’s a gently intense and beautifully intimate story full of the imagining, joys and fascinations of childhood exploration, and reminder that life is truly lived when we have a respectful and personal connection with nature.
The artwork by Lee White is stunning, the rustic watercolour pictures adding their own touch of mystery and magic that completes the story.
Emma And The Whale is a comforting book that can lead to some really important discussions like:
- Emma’s ability to empathise with the whale was key to her success in getting it free. Being able to see from another perspective increases our capacity to help others and in the process helps us come to better understand ourselves.
- Doing good is it’s own reward. I love that Emma’s determination achieves something amazing; we all feel that longing to make a significant difference in the world. But when the whale is free Emma simply goes home, with nothing in her life having changed. The concept of doing good because it’s right, and not because of what it gets us is an important life lesson that can be difficult to grasp.
Emma And The Whale is published for ages 4 – 8 but I’ve read it to kids from 3 – 10 who have absolutely loved it.
Names in this book – Emma, Nemo