By Fiona Robinson
Abrams Books for Young Readers, $17.95, 32 pages
The mystery of a deep, dark ocean has always been quite enchanting. What lies beneath those depths and what do all of the sea creatures really do all day, anyway? Oh, they all come together to put on “The Hugest Art Show in the Deep and Briny”, curated by none other than Mr. Jackson Pollock. Of course!
“Once upon a tide, a whale dreamed of becoming an artist” so the intro to this little book, Whale Shines by Fiona Robinson, goes. While the story is simple, one is drawn in by the harmony of its parts depicting marine biology, art history, and an uncluttered fantasy tale. The illustrations are charming. But the artist shines with her deep, bold colors depicting the whale, especially in the book’s final pages. Add to that the “starry night” effect of one of entrants’ artistic works, named aptly, Starry Night, and you’ve got a really cool little ‘artistic tale’. OK, so that particular illustration is not van Gogh, and what sea creatures’ artistic work is? But it does affect you in that swirly, mesmerizing way. Really!
Whale’s matter-of-fact personality (maybe he has been in billboard advertising a little too long) finally comes alive after watching inspired undersea artists (such as the hammerhead shark, building sculptures with his shipwreck finds) hard at work and lost in their own creations. As whale tries to transform himself and emulate the talent of others he bellows to no one in particular, ‘I wish I could make something too, but I’m just in advertising’ (As if serving as a palate for a billboard advertising makes one a “no talent” Ha! It won’t be long before we find out!) His surprise comes from a group of plankton. Uh, oh aren’t whales supposed to eat plankton?
Whale shares the beauty of a part of his world that his undersea friends would otherwise never be able to envision, at least through his eyes anyway. What more could you ask of a picture book? The child inside all of us will most certainly enjoy.
Reviewed by Kathleen Godwin