The Boy and the Whale by Mordicai Gerstein
A fisherman and his son on the shore spot a whale in the distance. They drive out to the whale in their boat to discover that the whale is caught in their net. The father thinks the whale is dead and is only concerned with his net – his only net – while the boy feels for the whale and wants to free him. But the father says no, it would be too difficult and they go back to shore where the father leaves to see if he can borrow a net from a relative. Meanwhile, the boy cannot just stand by and let the whale die, so he goes out on the boat by himself and works to cut the net free from the whale. It takes great effort on the boy’s part as the whale gets closer to death – there is a poignant scene where the boy looks into the whale’s eye and sees only his own reflection as the life ebbs out of the whale – but the boy does free the whale! Once free, the whale performs a magnificent dance in the water, breaching again and again. Was the whale celebrating his freedom or thanking the boy or maybe both? The book has lovely illustrations of the aqua-colored sea sparkling in the sunlight and close-ups of the boy and whale as they boy works to cut the net. The reader feels the sense of urgency and the exhaustion of the boy and the whale. The book is based upon a real-life whale rescue, video of which the author viewed online.
I was struck by how cold-hearted the boy’s father was – you’d think spending so much time on the ocean and making his living from it, he would respect it and want to live in harmony with the creatures of the sea, but all he saw was money, no compassion for life, and he was the one who caused the whale’s predicament because it was his net. It is sad when humans are so callous towards life. Yes, it is how he feeds his family, but a little care and effort would make such a huge difference to the world. Thankfully, there are some people, like the boy, who do care, but too many who don’t. This is why so much non-human life on earth is endangered. The boy showed courage both in helping the whale and in defying his father to help the whale. A good lesson for children to be responsible, and if you cause harm, to mitigate it if you can and to help if you can.