This is one of those books that forces you to stop. I mean this in the sense of dropping everything on the library or bookshelf floor and letting yourself be completely absorbed.
Barroux’s characteristic, deceptively simple, bright brushstroke illustrations, suggest to readers, it should be just that – simple. That animals and humans should live together and share our world. Jonas – the name is no coincidence – falls from his boat into the sea during a storm and when he calls ‘Mayday’ a very large, smiling whale named Blue comes to his rescue. For one beautiful illustration Jonas places his characterful yellow hat on Blue’s head and all seems well until the following day when Jonas can’t find Blue. The keen-eyed reader may well have noted the plastic bag alongside the variety of fish in the underwater images, and when Jonas finds a sad looking Blue on the ocean floor, he swims into his open mouth only to observe ‘No wonder you’re sick. You have a belly full of plastic bags!’ Jonas collects the bags and takes them away on his boat, though again the keen-eyed will note that even as we picture this, another plastic bag floats in the sea. Jonas cannot fix this problem alone. The final page shows a declaration of love from Jonas to Blue, as the lighthouse keeper hugs the whale, but there is an additional message written on the wall for readers to note: ‘Save our Oceans, Save our Whales’. The endnotes – beautiful, stripy blue and green brushstrokes – in case like me you love such touches – have an additional information panel to explain plastic pollution in the sea and how it is impacting on whales with ‘ways you can help’ and a link to find out more online.
The book is beautiful, informative and instructional. Readers might ask if Jonas would have noticed Blue, if Blue hadn’t rescued him first, and this might form the basis of a useful wider discussion about the relationships between humans and nature, and when and what we can do to help the environment? This would be a beautiful addition to any classroom, as Barroux tells the story of pollution through these two characters.
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