Whale Shine: An Artistic Tale is the newest book from author illustrator Fiona Robinson. Robinson is the author and illustrator of one of my favorite books to read out loud from my days as a kid's bookseller, What Animals Really Like. What Animals Really Like is the kind of book that kids love - it follows a familiar story path, then diverges wildly and hilariously. Mr Herbert Timberteeth has composed a new song titled "What Animals Really Like," and is on stage and ready to perform it at the start of the book. However, the animal chorus doesn't entirely agree with the lyrics and insert their own instead.
Whale Shine: An Artistic Tale is more ultimately more poignant than hilarious, Robinson's playfulness and love of language, animals and creativity comes through in this story about a whale who wishes he could be artistic, just like all the entrants in the upcoming art show that he swims across the ocean advertising. Robinson's completely charming story begins most cleverly, "Once upon a tide . . ." The cleverness will keep popping up in little ways throughout this fantastic book, like Mr. Jackson Pollock, curator of the art show.
The hammerhead shark creates sculptures from shipwrecks, while the eel wriggles in the sand forming artistic patterns and the wrasse changes colors to match his surroundings, using corals as part of his living sculpture for the show. In my favorite spread, the octopus, cuttlefish and giant squid are busy, "trying to scare one another into producing ink for their paintings," as seen below.
Just when the whale is at his lowest, a school of plankton come along and try to cheer him up, insisting that he has special skills, he just needs to find them!
Insisting that he truly has no talent, Whale thanks the plankton but tells them to, "go away before I eat you!" But, and encounter with a school of bioluminescent phytoplankton, the realization that he is one of the few deep sea creatures that gets to emerge from the waves and see the night (or day) sky and some Vincent Van Gogh-type inspiration and a truly awe-inspiring contribution to the art show.
Of this beautiful moment, Robinson writes, "His giant body was his paintbrush, the plankton his paint, the ocean his canvas." Eloquent and elegant, Whale Shine: An Artistic Tale is just a bit on the odd side, but infinitely memorable and inspirational. Don't be surprised when your kids want their own school of bioluminescent phytoplankton!
Source: Review Copy