Books, Nature

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Pipaluk and the Whales

Author/Illustrator: John Himmelman
Publication Info: Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Children’s Books, Feb. 1, 2002
Genre: Fiction, but based on a true story
Intended audience: Ages 4-8
Themes/topics: Perserverance, nature, animals, history, geography (Arctic circle)
Synopsis and opening line: Pipaluk and the Whales is a fictionalized account of a true story. In December 1984, several thousand beluga whales were trapped in a hole in the ice off Russia’s Chukchi Peninsula. An icebreaker reached the whales after nearly three months, but the whales refused to head out to sea — until the icebreaker played classical music. John Himmelman’s protagonist is the fictional Pipaluk, a native girl who discovers the whales as she journeys home from a hunting trip with her father. After the icebreaker arrives, it’s Pipaluk’s singing that first moves the whales out to sea. Her song inspires the icebreaker to play music and lead the whales to safety. Himmelmans’ story begins:
“The night was bitter cold. Pipaluk shivered, but she did not complain.”
Resources: Himmelman includes a note in the back with picture of the real story. In addition, there are number of helpful classroom resources relating to this book. For students in grades 3 through 5, a conflict/resolution lesson can be found… An Inuit and the Arctic lesson plan can be found… For parents and teachers alike, National Geographic has a comprehensive beluga whale page with audio….here. Find their kids’ version of the page with maps, video and sound ….here.
Why I like this book: The visual of thousands of whales trapped in the ice is compelling, however I think the most moving part of this book is a community that works together day and night to save helpless creatures. Pipaluk’s family could easily have killed the trapped whales and had enough food for weeks. However, they respected the whales too much to slaughter them. This book goes a long way toward helping children learn to respect nature.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.