Lynne Kelly dedicates her book, Song for a Whale, to everyone who’s ever felt alone. This is the perfect way to introduce a story that highlights the experiences of an underrepresented group, while also reflecting the thoughts of children from every background. Kelly’s book centers around Iris who is twelve and the only Deaf student in her school. While Iris has a sign language interpreter with her all of the time, she still feels incredibly disconnected from her teachers and fellow students. When Iris finds out about Blue 55, a whale whose song is at too high a frequency for other whales to understand, she can completely relate. Iris becomes determined to help Blue 55 to make connections.
In Song for a Whale readers are introduced to a young woman who is Deaf, but Iris is so strong and resourceful that the only people who seem to have a disability are those who treat her differently or seek not to communicate with her at all. Iris is an engineering genius and the creativity she shows throughout the book is limitless. Her intensity and commitment to her cause are also truly admirable.
Iris’ story will appeal to a wide audience and might even inspire some budding marine biologists or STEM trailblazers. We have all felt alone at one time or another, but there are some students for whom this feeling is constant. As educators we need to make sure that we identify these students and do all that we can to connect them to others who share their interests. Everyone needs to know that they are not alone. Even whales.
Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Identity 3: I know that all my group identities are part of who I am, but none of them fully describes me and this is true for other people too.
Diversity 8: I want to know more about other people’s lives and experiences, and I know how to ask questions respectfully and listen carefully and non-judgmentally.
Action 20: I will work with my friends and family to make our school and community fair for everyone, and we will work hard and cooperate in order to achieve our goals.
RL.1- Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
RL.3- Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
RL.6- Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.
W.2- Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.