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Book Review of Willa and the Whale by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown
I’ve only seen whales a couple of times in my life. You see, I live much closer to the mountains than I do to the ocean. I LOVE the ocean, though. Well, I actually LOVE the beach, not really the ocean. The ocean scares me. I’ve snorkeled a few times, and it just scares me—especially after I got stung by a jellyfish on my honeymoon (a story for a different day…). I’ve seen Shamu and the other orcas (killer whales) at Sea World, and I’ve seen gray whales off the Oregon Coast. We saw the gray whales on our trip down the Oregon Coast last summer, and it was definitely a highlight of the trip. It’s easy to see why Willa loves whales so much– they’re incredible to watch. I’d love to go out on a whale watching trip sometime, but for now I’ll be content with reading Willa and the Whale by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown.
(Here is a pic of a gray whale we saw last summer off the Oregon Coast.)
“Can a whale talk to a human? Willa thinks so . . .
After losing her mom, Willa is grieving and having a hard time living with her dad and his new family on an island off the coast of Washington State. Her dad tries to cheer her up by taking her whale watching, something Willa’s mom used to do.
While all the passengers are on one side of the boat, Willa encounters a humpback whale on the opposite side. Willa feels so lonely that she starts to talk to the whale—and the whale talks back!
The whale, named Meg, quickly becomes a trusted friend and confidante Willa can speak to whenever she’s by the ocean.
Meg offers sound advice Willa needs about dealing with a nemesis at school and trying to figure out why her friend Marc is keeping secrets about his family life.
Before the story ends, it will take all of Willa’s courage and connections to tackle a problem that’s as big as a blue whale!”
My Book Review:
I LOVE the combination of Chad Morris and Shelly Brown! They have written some amazing middle-grade books! Consequently, I couldn’t wait to read this one; it did not disappoint. I love the writing style they have together—it’s easy to read, understand, and relate to. It’s a casual, yet poignant, style that easily combines children and their curiosity with bigger and difficult-to-talk-about topics. They’ve tackled disability and illness in previous books, and this time around they discuss the death of a loved one.
Willa’s parents divorce, and she moves far away with her mother. After her mother passes away, she moves back to the United States to live with her dad and his new wife and family. They live off the coast of Washington state. Lucky for them, they live in a beautiful part of our country. It’s so green! I love it there. In an effort to cheer Willa up, her dad takes her on a whale watching expedition. While out on the ocean, she meets a humpback whale. To her surprise, the whale talks to Willa!
This story has some tense moments, but it’s a sweet story of friendship, family, love, nature, swimming, and overcoming hard things. The book is well written. The characters are my favorite; they are well developed, relatable, and realistic. Willa and Meg have such a sweet friendship, and I love how Willa fights to reclaim her friendship with Marc. You know how much I love lessons in children’s books, and this one is FULL of great lessons! The great thing is that it’s such a sweet and cute story that the kids won’t even know how many lessons they’re learning.
I loved this book, and I highly recommend it for any home or class library. I have such a hard time because I have all these great books at my house, and I want an extra copy of all of them for my classroom library. My own children would revolt if I took the books to school, though. I think this would also be a very fun read-aloud.
Content Rating: PG+ (This book is clean. There isn’t any profanity, intimacy, or violence. There is a description of Willa’s mother’s death, and there is a lot of discussion of death and grief. There’s also some discussion of drug addiction and rehab.)
Age Recommendation: Middle-Graders (4th-6th) +
My Rating: 4/5
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/37gFu6G