If You Want to See a Whale


If you want to see a whale, you will need to know what not to look at.

Pink roses, pelicans, possible pirates . . .

If you want to see a whale, you have to keep your eyes on the sea, and wait . . .

and wait . . . and wait . . .

In this quiet and beautiful picture book by ...

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If you want to see a whale, you will need to know what not to look at.

Pink roses, pelicans, possible pirates . . .

If you want to see a whale, you have to keep your eyes on the sea, and wait . . .

and wait . . . and wait . . .

In this quiet and beautiful picture book by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead, the team that created the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor book And Then It's Spring, a boy learns exactly what it takes to catch a glimpse of an elusive whale.

A Neal Porter Book

A Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of 2013

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Seeing a whale is not as simple as it sounds. That at least is the tongue-in-cheek contention of this jaunty new picture book. According to author Julie Fogliano, when searching for giant sea creatures, you have to remember that they are not pink roses, pelicans, and, least of all, pirates. And most importantly, you must be very, very, very patient as you scan the ocean for glimpses of these mammoth divers. (Julie Fogliano and illustrator Erin Stead are the same team that created the Boston Globe Horn Book honor book And Then It's Spring.)

The New York Times Book Review - Leonard S. Marcus
This quiet book reminds us that daydreaming is a pleasurable activity for children, and that it can lead to a larger sense of the world…Fogliano's words are carved and measured. This is a writer who takes her time, and the leaps she makes with language surprise and thrill. Erin E. Stead…draws with a firm, spare hand, and her illustrations have a crafted, artisanal feel. They luxuriate in white space and unarticulated expanses of softened color that leave readers with room for their own thoughts…Not every child will drop anchor long enough to savor this resolutely understated story, but those who do will be glad they did.
Publishers Weekly
Fogliano and Stead team up again to examine the relationship between patience and reward, trading the gardening theme of And Then It’s Spring for a maritime setting. The text resembles a series of brief poems, each beginning with the phrase of the title: “if you want to see a whale/ you will need a window/ and an ocean/ and time for waiting/ and time for looking/ and time for wondering ‘is that a whale?’ ” Stead’s pencil and linoleum prints—as delicate, understated, and imaginative as ever—take exciting creative license with Fogliano’s expressive writing. When the author cautions against getting too comfortable (“because sleeping eyes can’t watch for whales”), a redheaded boy—the one seeking the whale—is seen leaning over a yellow armchair, peering down into the pale green sea in which it bobs. Gentle irony courses through the story: when Fogliano warns against being sidetracked by fragrant wild roses or the possibility of pirates in the harbor, it’s clear that those “distractions,” while certainly different than the split-second magic of spotting a whale, are treasures in themselves. Ages 2–6. Illustrator’s agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Literary Management. (May)
From the Publisher
"To find a picture book that attempts to explore the patient, persistent and solitary pursuit at the heart of creativity is unusual; to find one that succeeds in making such an abstract process comprehensible to children is extraordinary....The author-illustrator team responsible for the bestselling “And Then It’s Spring” has again produced something truly unique, melding a hypnotic text with translucent, light-filled illustrations that invite young readers to climb aboard, row diligently, keep looking and experience the wonder of the journey for themselves. —The Washington Post

"Fogliano’s words are carved and measured. This is a writer who takes her time, and the leaps she makes with language surprise and thrill." —The New York Times

Starred Review, Booklist, April 1, 2013 issue:

"A gorgeous love song to the imagination . . . It’s breathtaking . . . Fans will be waiting." — Booklist, starred review

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2013 issue:"Readers will gape at the two enormous, whale-sized talents at work in this transfixing picture book." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, March 18, 2013 issue: "Stead’s pencil and linoleum prints—as delicate, understated, and imaginative as ever—take exciting creative license with Fogliano’s expressive writing."

 "The same pair that brought us And Then It’s Spring (rev. 1/12) returns with a book that has a similar overall feel but a completely different story. . . this one takes on the possibility of imagination." — The Horn Book

"Her [Stead's] work is often a study in composition, with horizon lines recurring like a chorus, counterpointed with subtle or strong diagonals and swoops. The whale itself is legitimately

humongous yet also clearly wise and benign, politely presenting itself to the presumably well-pleased whale searchers. This could be an inducement to some imaginary eyes-shut travel, or just an offbeat choice for sending kids off to dreamland." — BCCB

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
"If you want to see a whale you will need a window...and an ocean..." and of course a lot of time. Fogliano continues to make suggestions for successfully spotting a whale as we watch a youngster, his dog, and a tiny bird prepare. We are also told what we must ignore, like pink, sweet waving roses, ships sailing by, a pelican, or the floating clouds. Both eyes must be on the sea as you wait, "and wait...and wait...and wait..." until the final surprise. The brief, poetic text helps make the looking and waiting bearable. The illustrations, in mainly double-page naturalistic scenes, are created using linoleum printing techniques and pencil, the former supplying areas of seashore and sea and a vital yellow chair. Thereis a delicacy to the few fine lines that shape our searchers, sail boats, etc. We rejoice with them when they are finally rewarded for their patience. The characters are introduced on the paper jacket; the cover is filled with a stamped outline of the whale on the dark blue of the sea. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—A poetic text advises children what to do (and not do) if they want to see a whale, as the illustrations show a boy, a dog, and a bird trying out the actions suggested: "…if you want to see a whale,/you will need a not-so-comfy chair/and a not-so-cozy blanket/because sleeping eyes can't watch for whales…" and "…if you want to see a whale/you shouldn't watch the clouds/…because if you start to look straight up/you might just miss a whale." An imaginative effort, the book uses linoleum printing techniques and pencil for the softly colored illustrations. It is also designed with a great deal of white space, which deftly evokes the mystery and vastness of the sea. A unique and lovely offering that will appeal to sensitive and patient children.—Judith Constantinides, formerly at East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA
Kirkus Reviews
Fogliano and Stead (And Then It's Spring, 2012) produce another tender, timid story about a boy, his animal friends (a basset hound and a bird) and practicing patience. Whale watching requires lots of resolve to avoid distractions like birds, roses, pirate ships, clouds, pelicans and so on. Fogliano's exhaustive accounting of what not to notice artfully communicates the impossibility of unflagging focus. Her skeined advice unreels in a vivid, looping poem, while Stead's soft, accompanying artwork settles into subdued, simple compositions. Linoleum printing offers oceanic, undulating blues and greens, while pencil drawings bring the redheaded boy's freckles and his hound's drooping skin into focus. Stunning specificity surfaces in the poem's off-kilter phrasing (an inchworm's "just nibble scoot" across a leaf). The drifting verse floats and coalesces like the clouds that threaten to divert the boy from whale watching. When read aloud, it charms like an incantation. The poem's unresolved ellipses at the conclusion suggest an unending whale hunt, but Stead's final two images silently deliver what we've been waiting for. The whale, huge and hidden, floats beneath the unknowing child's tiny vessel and then twists its mass, pulling its head completely out of the water. The boy, his dog and bird rear back in wonder; readers will gape at the two enormous, whale-sized talents at work in this transfixing picture book. (Picture book. 2-6)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596437319
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 5/7/2013
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 277,395
  • Age range: 2 - 6 Years
  • Lexile: NPL (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Julie Fogliano has spent her entire life reading children's books. Now she stays up way too late writing her own books while eating cereal. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and their three children. They make her very tired, but give her lots of good ideas. If You Want to See a Whale is her second book. Her first was the New York Times bestseller And Then It's Spring, which received five starred reviews.


Erin E. Stead first met Julie Fogliano while working together in a New York City bookstore. Today she lives in a 100-year-old barn in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with her husband, Philip, who is an author and illustrator, and with whom she created A Sick Day for Amos McGee, winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal, as well as Bear has a Story to Tell. She also illustrated Julie Fogliano's And Then It's Spring. Erin created the illustrations for If You Want to See a Whale using woodblock printing techniques and pencil.

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