Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Here Come the Humpbacks by April Pulley Sayre

Here Come the Humpbacks!
Written by April Pulley Sayre; Illustrated by Jamie Hogan
Charlesbridge. 2013
ISBN: 9781580894050
Ages 4-7
I received a copy of the book from the illustrator.

Flippers paddle. Flukes push. In every ocean on Earth, humpback whales swim.

Acclaimed science writer, April Pulley Sayre (Stars Beneath Your Bed) and Maine illustrator Jamie Hogan (Warmer World) have teamed up in Here Come the Humpbacks, a nifty informational picture book for a slightly older audience that introduces children to whale migration.  

The main text follows a mother humpback as she gives birth to her calf, and their eventual migration from the Caribbean Sea to Stellwagen Banks in the Gulf of Maine. The main narrative text uses short, informational sentences.

By April, the waters are quieter. The escort whale and most other whales have migrated. But the calf and his mother still cruise the reefs. She has not eaten for six months. She is ten tons lighter than she was last May. 
The mother does not have teeth for tearing, and the passage from her mouth to her stomach is small. She needs many small fish in one big bite. Those fish swim in cold waters, far, far north. It is time, at last, to migrate

Supplementing the text are expository sidebars. 

Teeth or No Teeth
Whales are divided into two main types: toothed whales and baleen whales. Toothed whales, such as orcas, use their sharp teeth to catch fish and other prey. Humpback whales are baleen whales. Baleen is a stiff fringe that hangs down from each side of a whale’s mouth. It is made of keratin, the same material that makes up human fingernails and hair. The baleen acts as a sieve to keep food in the whale’s mouth as the water drains out.” 

 As the whales travel north, they do face many dangers, either from predators (orcas) and environmental challenges (ocean pollution, busy shipping lanes)

Jamie Hogan’s illustrations, done in charcoal pencil and pastel on sanded paper are expansive. Using muted blues, greens, and grays (with a splash of red) we are immersed in the ocean world of the humpbacks. There are a few pages where the black text over the darker tones of the illustrations makes it difficult to read. 

The book lacks additional reading recommendations, but Pulley does include a comment about whale migration, the difficulties studying whales, and how the number of humpbacks is slowly increasing. A fine addition to libraries.

Pair this with Turtle, Turtle, Watch Out! by April Pulley Sayre, Surprising Sharks by Nicola Davies, The Whale Scientists: solving the mystery of whale strandings by Fran Hodgkins,
And for fun, Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr.

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