if you want to see a whale.

if you want to see a whaleif you want to see a whale.

Written by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead.

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1-59643-731-9

Quiet and lyrical, this picturebook (created by the same team as And Then It’s Spring) celebrates childhood in its playful energy and its deep contemplation. Fogliano’s minimalist poetry flows off the page like maple syrup; yet, the text is not without structure. Fogliano uses assonance and alliteration effectively and intelligently throughout the story, using fun phrases such as “whales won’t wait for watching” and delicate ones such as “ship that is sailing” and “flag that is flapping.” Stead’s signature illustration style of muted pastels and purposeful negative space compliment and extend Fogliano’s artful text. As I experienced this story, I couldn’t help but put myself into the young character’s shoes, imagining, remembering and creating images in my head about my own childhood journeys.

I was left with many thoughts and feelings after I finished this book, but the most significant was a personal meditation on patience and discovery. After a first read, it might be easy to think that seeing a whale is the most important thing for this young boy. After all, it is the title of the book. Yet, I think the text and image are purposefully juxtaposed here. Yes, the text states, “You’ll have to just ignore the roses,” and “Don’t look way out and over there to the ship that is sailing.” But, the boy doesn’t ignore the roses, and he does look way out and over there. During the majority of the book, the boy isn’t seeing a whale. Rather, he is exercising patience for the future and truly experiencing the beautiful things of every day. Most days aren’t monumental, right? Most days, we don’t have promotions, our babies aren’t born, our books aren’t published, and the love of our life doesn’t knock on our door with 1,000 yellow daises. Rather, we write emails and cook dinner and help with homework and come home to chaos or maybe empty apartments. The days of actually “seeing the whale” are fabulous and memorable and obviously grand. But we have to be patient to discover them. Maybe Fogliano and Stead are saying that the whale has always been there all along, hanging out in our minds and hearts. We just have to open our eyes to the every day to finally see it.

On a side note, I adore the dog in this picturebook. I love the tilt of its head, the way its back arches when it smells roses, and the way it follows the boy around in every spread, just like dogs do.

And the book trailer is awesome.