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Whale Trails, Before and Now
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Whale Trails, Before and Now

by Lesa Cline-Ransome, G. Brian Karas (Illustrator)
 

"My father and I live for the sea. He is the captain of the Cuffee Whale Boat and today I am his First Mate."

Whale-watching is a hugely popular pastime: at least 13 million people take whale-watching trips each year. But in the past, whaling ships hunted these animals to use their blubber for fuel and their bones for fishing hooks. As the whale population

Overview

"My father and I live for the sea. He is the captain of the Cuffee Whale Boat and today I am his First Mate."

Whale-watching is a hugely popular pastime: at least 13 million people take whale-watching trips each year. But in the past, whaling ships hunted these animals to use their blubber for fuel and their bones for fishing hooks. As the whale population thinned, fortunately hunting ceased. Now, whale lovers go out on boats just to get a glimpse of these giant endangered creatures.

Narrated by a little girl out on the waves with her father, this is a story of marine history and the differences between then and now.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/17/2014
In a pensive story about how human perceptions of whales have evolved, modern-day scenes narrated by an African-American girl, whose family conducts whale-watching expeditions, appear alongside scenes of maritime history, drawn in muted grays and browns. A boardwalk full of families ready to board the Cuffee contrasts with a scene of whalers preparing to leave port. While the modern girl’s backpack includes “snacks, binoculars, a camera, and a sweater,” in whaling days, “the ship was packed with harpoons, toggles, lances, spades, blubber forks, and sailors’ biscuits.” Both text and art tiptoe around the brutality of whaling, skipping from “the first sight of blood” from a speared whale to the sailors’ cleanup and the products derived from whales. Comprehensive author’s notes help emphasize the pronounced shift from fearing whales to revering them. Ages 5–9. Illustrator’s agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford. J. Greenburger Associates. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

A CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book
A Bank Street College Best Book of the Year
CCBC Award Master List Selection

“A captivating and informative picture book with an intriguing dual focus.” —Booklist

“A young girl and her father are first mate and captain, respectively, on a family-owned whale-watching vessel . . . This book further explains the various tools whalers used, their life on boar ship, and the products harvested from captured whales.” —School Library Journal

“Comprehensive author's notes help emphasize the pronounced shift from fearing whales to revering them.” —Publishers Weekly

“Karas' pictures are not only engaging but packed with visual information that effortlessly supplements the text.” —BCCB

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
An unnamed girl and her father, captain of the Cuffee whale-watching boat, are waiting for their passengers. They love the sea; their ancestors all sailed on whaling ships from this Atlantic port. To explain the changing relationships between humans and whales over several centuries, Cline-Ransome and Karas alternate pages between “then” and “now.” The present, about whale-lovers and watchers, is depicted in full-page color illustrations, while the darker past is suggested by smaller, framed paintings reminiscent of sepia photographs. Ships were powered by wind, piers were devoted to whaling supplies, passengers were the whale ship’s crew, the purpose of each trip was to kill whales and process their bodies. (The bloody work of cutting up the corpses is omitted.) While people today delight in observing the mighty creatures, whalers were all business. Two wide spreads summarize the differences between then and now: a joyous painting of a breaching humpback and a dark brown scene of a crewman piercing a sperm whale with his lance. Night falls “now;” while a silvery moon lights the sea, the girl and her father head home. But “then,” as barrels of oil and boxes of bone are being unloaded, reunited relatives and crew line up to have their pictures taken on the pier. African-Americans appear in all the pictures, both then and now. Karas’s charming pencil, gouache, and acrylic illustrations neatly highlight the contrasts; Cline-Ransome’s excellent author’s note adds interesting detail, including information about the International Whaling Commission, and that Norway, Iceland, and Japan are still killing about 1,600 now-endangered whales each year. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft; Ages 4 to 8.
School Library Journal
11/01/2014
Gr 1–3—A young girl and her father are first mate and captain, respectively, on a family-owned whale-watching vessel, the Cuffee. She explains that prior generations of her family were whalers. From that point on, the story moves back and forth between the past and present. "Before now," the girl says, "children were taught whales were dangerous sea creatures that devoured our fish supply and were good only for their baleen and blubber." Now, passengers view pictures of the whales that they might see on daily sightseeing trips. In the old days, whalers left in the summer and hunted whales in warmer waters. Nowadays, passengers "set sail…when the weather cools and the whales are everywhere feeding on copepods, sand lance, and krill." In the past, "this pier was lined with shops of shipbuilders, candle makers, blacksmiths, and sail makers." Today, the pier by the dock "is lined with booths that sell souvenirs, sunglasses, binoculars, and sunscreen." The book further explains the various tools whalers used, their life on board ship, and the products harvested from captured whales. Karas effectively contrasts past and present, using sepia tones for depictions of the olden times and colorful gouache and acrylic images for portrayals of current times. Endnotes include a short glossary and further information on the whaling industry and international efforts to protect whales.—Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-10-22
The young first mate on the Cuffee sightseeing boat, descendant of generations of men who worked whaling ships, compares whaling long ago with a whale-watching excursion today.The cover reveals what makes this enjoyable field trip stand out; the narrator is female, a child of color. In her chatty spiel, the fictional tour guide offers plenty of facts. These are set on spreads that contrast views from the present-day expedition with the past. (The sepia tones of the latter add historical distance). She contrasts historic and modern attitudes toward whales, shows ways in which times have changed on shore and on the boats, and describes whaling techniques. She points out that the crews of early whaling ships included "escaped slaves and free blacks," and indeed, the crews in the historical pictures, like the crowd of tourists, are racially diverse. A double-page spread shows the excitement of a whale sighting today; the next spread shows a tiny whale boat from the past, its sailors attacking a massive whale with puny lances and a harpoon. Their sailing ship waits in the background. Backmatter provides further information about commercial whaling and whale watching, a glossary and good suggestions for further research. Karas' pencil drawings, colored with gouache and acrylics, add intriguing detail. This inventive look at maritime history has significant modern child appeal. (Informational picture book. 5-9)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805096422
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
01/20/2015
Pages:
40
Sales rank:
1,353,392
Product dimensions:
11.10(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
5 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Lesa Cline-Ransome is the author of many picture books, including Young Pele: Soccer's First Star and Light in the Darkness. She lives in Rhinebeck, New York, with her family.

G. Brian Karas has illustrated many bestselling books for children, such as Seals on the Bus and The Village Garage. He lives with his family in Rhinebeck, New York.

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