Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey.
Random House Studio. 2023
First off, I must admit that we, at the Nonfiction Detectives, are colossal fans of Melissa Stewart. As a nonfiction writer, her talent to bring facts to life without overwhelming readers is a true gift. She makes our job as a librarians easier because we can trust the book we hand a curious reader. We know they will be able to absorb the information while also just enjoying the narrative. Thank you, Melissa!
In her newest, Whale Fall, Stewart asks readers to imagine what happens after a whale dies.
“It’s massive body silently sinks down, down, through the inky darkness, finally coming to rest on the soft, silty seafloor.”
From there, the decomposing body offers “the deep-sea denizen, the hundred of species and millions of creatures” shelter and sustenance for over fifty years.
In her author’s note, Stewart explains that scientists had no idea that whale fall communities existed until they discovered one off the coast of California in 1987. Studying the sites, scientists have identified more than 500 different species that live on or around whale falls.
Dunlavey’s lush illustrations, created using watercolor, mixed media, and digital tools, mirror the text. In some scenes, especially when you are looking up through many miles of ocean and you see the shadow of the whale overhead, you feel like you are actually a part of the book, standing at the bottom of the ocean with sea life all around you.
This informational picture book is perfect to share with readers, regardless of age, who are curious about the ocean…and spark those who have yet to take the plunge.
In addition to the author’s note, there is a section that identifies some whale fall species that includes illustrations of the species, scientific name, size, diet, predators, life span, and field notes. Selected sources, more books to explore is also included.