Cover of The Blue Whale by Jenni DesmondBlue whales are fascinating creatures. Threats have recently thrown them into the news and Robert Burleigh just published a riveting book about the rescue of a blue whale.

This title by Jenni Desmond would pair beautifully with Burleigh’s suspenseful page-turner. This book couldn’t be more different in tone. Its voice is very quiet, almost dry and reportorial, in fact, but the book shimmers in the interplay between serious, factual words and playful, whimsical pictures. It’s a book that could only have been written by a writer-illustrator.

For example, one page of the book reports:

“Baby blue whales don’t eat krill; they drink their mother’s milk….It drinks nearly 50 gallons of its mother’s milk every day and can gain as much as nine pounds an hour.”

This information, fact-based page is accompanied with a funny drawing of fifty jugs of milk, one of them being toted off by a little boy.

The only time that the text flirts with whimsy is when it makes comparison. For example, describing the size of a blue whale, the book says, “A blue whale’s tongue weighs three tons, and its mouth is so big that 50 people can stand inside it.” The illustration is of 50 waving, smiling people, mugging for the camera, inside a blue whale’s mouth.

As a child, I know that my favorite page would have been the first one, where a child is reading a book. THIS  VERY BOOK. I always loved self-referential pictures. This book’s illustrations have lots of tiny gifts for the careful viewer, and you’ll come away from it knowing a lot about that magnificent creature, the blue whale.

The Blue Whale by Jenni Desmond. Enchanted Lion Books: 2015.