The Song of the Whales
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The Song of the Whales

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by Uri Orlev
     
 

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Michael’s grandfather has a secret—a secret that’s almost too strange to share . . .

When Michael moves to Israel, he leaves loneliness behind and steps into the light of his grandfather’s magic. Like a sorcerer’s apprentice, Michael learns how to blur the lines between dreams and reality when his grandfather hands down the most

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Overview


Michael’s grandfather has a secret—a secret that’s almost too strange to share . . .

When Michael moves to Israel, he leaves loneliness behind and steps into the light of his grandfather’s magic. Like a sorcerer’s apprentice, Michael learns how to blur the lines between dreams and reality when his grandfather hands down the most precious of gifts—a gift that allows Michael passage into his grandfather’s dreams.

Written with a quiet simplicity that wins the reader over at once Uri Orlev writes in a style so sure and yet so unassuming that it is certain to linger in reader’s minds long after turning the last page.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"It's a gentle fable of community connection; a penetrating look at the darker sides latent in people and the mutability of different kinds of love; and a heart-tugging tale about passing the generational torch from grandfather to grandson. With a clean sense that less is more, Orlev has crafted a sweetly mysterious and quietly moving read."--Booklist, starred review

"Orlev (Run, Boy, Run) blurs the edges of dream and reality in this story about Michael, a friendless child of self-absorbed parents, who "[doesn't] like sports or computer games," preferring the company of his Plasticine figures and the old men in his neighborhood. When his family moves to Israel, Mikha'el (as he's known there) forges a strong bond with his ailing grandfather, who takes him into his dreams...A strange tale, but a diverting escape, perhaps, to those also at odds with the really real world."--Publishers Weekly

VOYA - Lona Trulove
Michael is a nine-year-old boy living in Port Washington, New York, who suddenly moves to Israel to be with his elderly paternal grandfather, Mr. Hammerman. Although his Hebrew isn't the best and his name becomes Mikha'el, life in Israel isn't much different. He still has a hard time making friends with boys his own age and prefers adults most of the time. While in America, he befriended an elderly gentleman named Mr. Albert, and in Israel his grandfather becomes his good friend. The story takes an unusual turn when the grandfather "shares" a dream with Michael. As the story continues, the dream sharing becomes more frequent, and finally Michael realizes that his grandfather's special gift can affect and help other people, not just himself. Eventually, as Michael becomes a part of this special world, his grandfather explains that Michael has the same unique gift. The story ends with a key, a dream in the "really, real world," a funeral, and a true love between a boy and his grandfather. The title of this book is perfect because just like whale songs, this story is mysterious, beautiful, and spellbinding. Finding books that can help children deal with death can be challenging. This story helps deal with the idea of losing a grandparent in a comforting way. Guidance counselors and school psychologists could find this useful when helping students cope with grief. Its simple text is appropriate for many reading levels in the middle school. Reviewer: Lona Trulove
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
Michael's parents move to Israel because his grandfather is getting old and they want to be close to his inheritance. It isn't a heart-wrenching move for Michael; he doesn't fit in with his peers, so there is no angst about classmates left behind or the process of switching schools. The transition is made easier by his instant affection for the grandfather he has, until now, never known. The pair share a keen sense of curiosity, and Michael enjoys listening to stories about the many old collections and objects in his grandfather's house. Together, they explore Israel, and their relationship grows. Michael's grandfather shares with him the song of the whales and invites him into an extraordinary world, an imaginative world of dreams. There, the aged man is able to control the dreams and develop experiences impossible to them in the real world. They swim with whales. They operate mechanical cranes. They walk in forests and ride bicycles and explore a depth of emotion and soul Michael could never come to know from his closed-up, calculating parents. Orlev's slender novel is a beautifully-wrought story of love and loss. The bond between Michael and his grandfather is not unlike that of Johanna Spyri's Heidi and her grandfather. The story will stay with readers long after the final page is turned. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Michael, 11, has never taken an interest in children his own age. Although he is certainly different, he is not necessarily lonely. He has befriended the old men in his neighborhood who share his interests—a jeweler, a bookbinder, and a junk dealer. When he moves from New York to Jerusalem with his less-than-attentive parents, this pattern continues as Mikha'el, as he is now called, develops a wonderful relationship with his grandfather, a former antiques dealer. Like his grown-up friends in the States, his grandfather pays close attention to details and the souls of things and people. As the two grow closer, his grandfather shares a very special gift with the boy, the ability to take him into his dreams. The two have all sorts of adventures in their sleep, although not all of the dreams are good ones and ultimately Mikha'el is being gently eased into accepting what life will be like after his grandfather is gone. This book is truly a work of art. The subtlety with which Orlev writes is absolutely mesmerizing. He draws readers in, thinking that they are back in the "really real world" until suddenly they realize that they are not at all, and instead are immersed in another incredible dream sequence with Grandpa and Mikha'el. There are additional plot elements involving his parents, the housekeeper, and the question of inheritance, but all of that fades away and becomes secondary when Mikha'el enters the old man's dreams.—Kerry Roeder, The Brearley School, New York City
Publishers Weekly
Orlev (Run, Boy, Run) blurs the edges of dream and reality in this story about Michael, a friendless child of self-absorbed parents, who “[doesn't] like sports or computer games,” preferring the company of his Plasticine figures and the old men in his neighborhood. When his family moves to Israel, Mikha'el (as he's known there) forges a strong bond with his ailing grandfather, who takes him into his dreams. The two share surreal nocturnal adventures, in which Grandpa “fixes” people's dreams--a gift he passes on to Mikha'el. While Orlev writes with deep empathy for the misfit Mikha'el and his relationship with his dying grandfather, the abrupt shifts from dream to the “really real world” can be jarring and the dreams bizarre. In one nightmare, intended to reform Mikha'el's parents' meat-eating ways (Grandpa is a vegetarian), animals in a restaurant are eager to chow down on Mikha'el's father, who appears as roast beef topped “with side dishes of contracts, account books, and income tax returns.” A strange tale, but a diverting escape, perhaps, to those also at odds with the really real world. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547257525
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/12/2010
Pages:
108
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet the Author


Uri Orlev was born in Warsaw in 1931. In 1996, Uri Orlev received the the highest international recognition given to an author of children’s books. He now lives in Jerusalem.

An author, journalist, and internationally reknowned, awarding-winning translator, Hillel Halkin has translated several of Uri Orlev’s novels from the Hebrew into English.

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The Song of the Whales 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Layers-of-Thought More than 1 year ago
Mini Synopsys: This is a translated work which is a sweet and fantastic tale about a young boy whose family moves to Israel from New York to care for his aging and dying grandfather. Michael, his American name, is a loner of a child and prefers adult company to that of children. He is comfortable with this move since he does speak fluent Hebrew. Upon arrival to Israel, he meets his grandfather and they become very close. Over their time together his grandfather shares his knowledge of his special gift, that Michael also possess. Only Michael doesn't realize how special he really is. My Thoughts: I enjoyed this tale with its many interesting themes, such as addressing dreams, death, respect for the old, thinking about rebirth, reincarnation, sharing past lives, vegetarianism, morality and recognizing special gifts. Several problems I had with the book is that it did not feel completely translated in a few small areas; there were bits which could be confusing for an American reader. I imagine that this was remedied since the copy that I read was an ARC - advanced read copy. Another is that one of the characters, Michael's grandfather's housekeeper/girlfriend, was portrayed as a difficult person. My problem was that although she cared for his grandfather, his grandfather's home, did all the cooking, and after a move did these things for Michael's family as well, she was treated with disrespect by the entire family. Not a great role model for a child. All in all, I adore translations and when looking beyond the annoyances mentioned above, I give this book 3.5 stars. I liked it a lot.