Reviews /

The Lost Whale

Authored by Hannah Gold
Illustrated by Levi Penfold
Published by Harper Collins

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The Lost Whale is a story first and foremost. A beautiful, compelling and exciting tale in fact. We meet Rio at ‘eleven – and – a – quarter- years’ old arriving at Los Angeles Airport to meet his grandmother Fran. Rio has been sent to California from London where his mother is suffering from ill mental health. Rio’s worldview and outlook at the beginning of story, including disdain for his American grandmother and lacking a sense of innocence and joie de vivre, incumbent on young people who find themselves caring for their parents, goes on quite a journey in this novel. A journey that takes him to the heart of the ocean and to the heart of a beautiful grey whale. He forges an honest loyal friendship with an ocean-loving adventurer, Marina,  who shows Rio a side of the world that makes the reader’s heart melt with a desire to visit! The reader is taken on a journey of discovery and learns about the custodians of whale life in the Pacific Ocean, and how civilians are doing everything they can to track the successful migration of these wonderful mammals. As well as this, we experience through Hannah Gold’s stunning storytelling, the bond that can exist between humans and our animal counterparts. Rio’s bravery in this tale is to be commended and is exciting to watch unravel.

This book is, however, so much more than this. It is a calling. A calling to adults and young people alike to take stock, strike up the band, rally around and become citizen scientists actively securing the safe passage of our planet through its future. 

‘None of us can save the world single-handedly. But together we might just stand a chance.’

The theme of mental health is prevalent throughout this book. In fact, it is at the heart of the trigger of this journey. Rio’s quest is rooted in the protection and desire to help his mother re-surface from her depressive state. Hannah Gold has gifted young readers with an adventure that recognises and acknowledges not only their clear understanding of the needs of our planet and the impact of humans on it but also the difficulties young people and adults face when it comes to mental health. At the same time, she maintains a compassionate sense of ease of responsibility and innocence of young people ensuring their hope, of which so much they provide for our future, is not dashed against the rocks of media despair. 

We are increasingly aware of the impact of mental health on our young people, both their own and how many young people are caregivers for family members. This book would have a very welcome place on the shelves of any upper key stage 2 classroom or core book list. It provides a beacon for people caught on this pathway and how insular that can feel.

‘… he was seeing his grandmother for the first time. Not through the prism of his own pain- because prisms like that are never accurate – but as she truly was.’  

Truly a must for every school. In her author’s note, Hannah Gold provides some great links to help those who are inspired to do something. Links myself and my young co-reader have been galvanised to explore!