As the tide drifts out, magnificent creatures are left on the beach, stranded. As the whales settle helplessly on the sand, the humans start to arrive with buckets, spades, wetsuits and sheets. Can the stranded whales be saved?
Based on the stranding of 49 upokohue /(long-finned pilot whales) at Onetahua Farewell Spit in February 2021, this gorgeous book is is written from the point of view of the pilot whales.
Author Linda Jane Keegan wrote the book based on her own experience of the stranding, having recently moved to Golden Bay when it happened, and as the first stranding she attended after completing marine mammal medic training with Project Jonah.
She has done an incredible job capturing the power and emotion of the event, with both sadness and joy shining through. Writing from the whale's perspective places readers in an empathetic role and encourages us to examine our own interaction with the environment. Death is covered in a gentle way and the story comes to an uplifting and hopeful ending.
Throughout the story, information panels offer practical insight to the whale’s experiences such as diet, echolocation and sunburn, as well as matauranga Māori.
Illustrator Isobel Joy Te Aho-White (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungungu ke te Wairoa) has done an exceptional job with the artwork. Her illustrations begin at eye-level with the pilot whales, slowly pulling back through the pages to echo Keegan's inclusion of human's within the cycle.
Pūhoro (a Māori pattern that shows swiftness) anchors the illustration, showing the movement of whales before receding to echo the whale’s mauri and returning again when the whales are able to move.
From Keegan's heartfelt and poetic words to Te Aho-White's haunting yet moving artwork, every page of this beautiful book sings.
Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell