The Stranded Whale
Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Melanie Cataldo
In this beautiful, short tale of a beached whale and how three children tried to save it, Yolen relates a timeless struggle against the harshness of nature. As the children walk home from school, they discover a whale stranded on the beach as the tide goes out. They immediately start trying to wet the whale’s skin with their sweaters and call for help from the beach’s emergency phone. Many people come to help, but it’s not enough. Eventually, the whale dies and the kids go home to their frantic parents. The Coast Guard gives the children each a medal for making the attempt to help, but what they really want is for the whale to be alive and well.
Cataldo’s lovely illustrations evoke the feel of the ocean and are dark enough to convey the seriousness of the situation. In the Author’s Note, Yolen explains her road to this story and the history of beached whales. She notes that this phenomenon doesn’t affect the overall whale population. Animals die.
Second graders will enjoy reading this story independently and should find hope in the circle of life. Nature may be harsh at times, but it is what it is. And people can always help.