Isabel of the Whales

Isabel of the Whales

4.8 33
by Hester Velmans
     
 

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Eleven-year-old Isabel is a “plain old” girl living in Provincetown, Massachusetts, who believes that she is destined to accomplish something special. When her fifth-grade class goes on a whale-watch field trip, something amazing happens: Dozens of different species of whales surround the boat, bumping the deck and sending Isabel flying into the ocean.… See more details below

Overview

Eleven-year-old Isabel is a “plain old” girl living in Provincetown, Massachusetts, who believes that she is destined to accomplish something special. When her fifth-grade class goes on a whale-watch field trip, something amazing happens: Dozens of different species of whales surround the boat, bumping the deck and sending Isabel flying into the ocean. Isabel is shocked to hear the whales speaking to her—she is a mermaid, they tell her, a “Chosen One” who has the ability to turn from a human into a whale and back again. She is destined to live among the whales long enough to learn their ways, and teach them about the human world.

Living among her pod is fun, at first, but Isabel has an important mission. She will change the whales’ future forever, and learn a lot about herself in the process.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Isabel has always felt that she is someone special. While her ordinary life with family and friends near Provincetown, MA, says otherwise, the 11-year-old proves her point by falling off a boat during a whale watch. Instead of drowning, she becomes a humpback whale. Her guide, Onijonah, tells her that she has been recognized as one of the "Chosen" humans who become whales in a sort of foreign exchange, teaching and learning from one another. Isabel receives training in diving, feeding, and communication as she migrates with the herd, sharing her knowledge of such hazards as nets and whaling ships. When she is injured helping Onijonah's calf, she must decide whether to stay or seek the safety of land and her human form. While the writing about the events on land seems stilted, the novel picks up once Isabel changes form, and Velmans succeeds admirably in creating a fascinating, watery world to explore. The rather thin fantasy elements are quickly eclipsed by the real magic of whale life. Isabel's pack is presented in detail, each character realized and believable, and the book's pacing and mood highlight the dangers of storms and the comforts of humpbacks' communal existence. Readers will want to move straight from Isabel to the 590s to find out more about these unique mammals. An excellent choice for readers who enjoy animal stories, domestic fantasy, or even nonfiction.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fantasy and reality merge in this aquatic coming-of-age adventure with a compelling ecological message. When her 5th-grade class goes on a whale watch, 11-year-old Isabel falls overboard as a congregation of whales surrounds the boat. Instead of drowning, Isabel finds herself very much alive as she morphs into a whale. Adopted by a pod of humpbacks, Isabel discovers she is their "Chosen One" who "will stay long enough to learn, and to fulfill her task." Initially, Isabel misses her human family, but gradually the ocean becomes home. The whales teach her underwater survival as they migrate from North Pole to equator. In return, Isabel engineers some lifesaving tricks of her own. But after a year, Isabel must make a wrenching choice between land and sea. To Velmans's credit, the improbable seems probable through the eyes and voice of her down-to-earth heroine. Watch out Little Mermaid, here comes Isabel. (notes, drawings) (Fiction. 8-12)
From the Publisher
“Fantasy and reality merge in this aquatic coming-of-age adventure with a compelling ecological message. . . To Velmans's credit, the improbable seems probable through the eyes and voice of her down-to-earth heroine. Watch out Little Mermaid, here comes Isabel."–Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307533005
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
12/18/2008
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
1,210,587
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

One

Call me Isabel. That's my name, though in my family you'd never know it. Someone please tell me why, when your parents have picked out a perfectly good name for you, they then turn around and call you something totally dumb instead, like Unchkins or the Bonz or Jellyman? In my case, it was Izzy at first, when I was a baby, but as soon as I could talk it got to be Lizzie, which later turned into (thanks to my brilliant big brothers) the Lizard--you know, all slimy and cold, with a forked tongue.

So I was the Lizard for a while, but then my brothers decided that was boring, and they came up with a new name for me. Iguana. Not a cute little lizard, but a big ugly lizard. Ig for short, which rhymes with pig. By the time I was eleven, I was Iggie most of the time. Which I didn't mind as much because it wasn't so far removed from Izzy, or Isabel.

We live just outside Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod. Our house is a shingled Victorian that at one time or another has been painted all these different shades of blue. It has a wide front porch, a narrow back porch, and lots of rooms all opening up into each other, which is great for hide-and-seek. My room is the smallest room in the house. It's on the third floor and what's special about it is that it has a three-sided window inside a small turret stuck onto the side of the roof--like a tower for a princess. It has a window seat, and if you lift out the screen you can climb onto the roof and have a great view of all the backyards on our street. On a clear day, you can see the sea. Even though I don't have my own bathroom up there, I wouldn't want to change rooms with any other kid in the world. That year I had a rainbow-colored sign on my door that read:

1. KNOCK
2. Do Not Enter
3. Girls Only Allowed
4. And I mean it!

On a Saturday at the end of May, Kristen and Molly came over to my house. The three of us have been best friends since kindergarten. I don't remember who first came up with the idea, but somehow we decided on a game of Truth or Dare. We lay sprawled on my bed, staring up at the ceiling.

Since it was my house, it was my turn to ask first. "Okay, Molly!" I said.

"Me?" said Molly, already in a giggly mood.

"Yes, you. Ms. Molly Masterson. Tell us . . . please tell us who you like."

"Who I like?" asked Molly, playing dumb. "Well, I like Kristen, I guess, and I like you . . ."

"Which boy you like," said Kristen patiently.

Anyone with eyes in their head could see that Molly liked my middle brother Jacob. She was always trying to get us to bake cookies or something because that way we'd be downstairs, in the kitchen, where we might bump into him. When we did, she would start playing with her pale curly hair, twirling it around her fingers or folding it into a bun, as if she were a model posing for a magazine cover. I had even caught her throwing a sultry glance or two in Jacob's direction, with this silly coy expression on her face. It was kind of pathetic. Jacob totally ignored her, of course--my brothers always ignored my friends--but from the way he strutted when she was around, you could tell he'd noticed, all right. Molly really annoyed me sometimes, even though she was my best friend. I hated it when she put on that silly-little-blonde act. It made me feel like such a big brown lump, compared to her.

"I don't like anyone!" she squealed now, pulling at her hair and twisting it into a ponytail.

"Are you sure?" I wheedled.

"Of course I'm sure!"

"Ohh-kay," I said, sort of sarcastic. "Be like that. Fine. She refuses to tell the truth. What dare do we have for Candidate Number One?"

"Uh," Kristen said. "I can't think of anything."

"Wait," I said. "I know! Molly has to go downstairs, sneak into the boys' room, and throw Jacob's pillow out the window."

"No!" screeched Molly. She was getting all red.

"Truth or dare," Kristen chanted, "truth or dare! You've got to do it, Molly!"

We had to help her, of course, to make sure the coast was clear, and I had to point out which bed was Jacob's. The pillow landed way up in the apple tree behind the back porch. I thought I was going to crack a rib, we were laughing so much, and Molly acted like she was about to faint, but in the end the whole joke sort of fizzled out, since it seemed my brothers had gone to baseball practice and they weren't around to get mad at us. I'd be the one to get it later, at bedtime, when Jacob figured out what had happened to his pillow.

"Me next," said Molly when we were back in my room. "I dare both of you to tell me--have you ever thought you were really, you know, special?"

"What do you mean, special?" I said.

"I mean, different. I mean, like, not really who you really are--living here, in Provincetown, going to Veterans Memorial School, being just, you know, ordinary."

"Oh! I know!" exclaimed Kristen.

"Yeah?" said Molly.

"Yeah! I used to think I was adopted," Kristen confessed. I had to pinch my nose hard to stop myself from laughing. I couldn't help it. Kristen is the fifth of six children, all redheads like her mom. You could say there's a distinct family resemblance.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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