Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Song for a Whale takes us into the world of a Deaf girl on a life-defining mission.

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly. Delacorte, 2019, 299 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 10-14

Iris, profoundly deaf from birth, often feels cut off from the world at large. Even in her immediate family, her mother and brother sign just a little too slow for rapid communication and her dad signs like a toddler. Her maternal grandparents, also Deaf, were like best friends until Grandpa died and Grandma withdrew into herself. So it’s no wonder that the plight of Blue 55 burrows its way into Iris’s mind and won’t leave. Blue is a humpbacked whale who swims alone. Whales are sociable creatures who typically band together in pods, but this one seems an outcast. It may have something to do with the sound frequency of his song. It’s a different pitch from the others, so maybe they can’t hear him, or they don’t like it. Or, Iris wonders, is he deaf and simply can’t hear the sound he’s making?

Iris has a scientific mind and a problem-solving will. This problem consumes her until she comes up with a solution. But it will need to be tested on Blue 55, and how can she make that happen?

The story has a unique setting and characters. Iris herself tends to be impatient, even judgmental—hard to like sometimes. But she opens a welcome door to the Deaf experience, as well as scientific inquiry, that most readers would have no clue about. The ending, though it stretches credulity, is a triumph—those who stuck with Iris for the journey will celebrate with her.

Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic/literary value: 4

Also at Redeemed Reader: Cece Bell’s autobiographical picture book, El Deafo, won high praise from us—see our review.

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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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