Jean Craighead George Ice Whale

ISBN 13: 9780803737457

Ice Whale

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From the most celebrated children’s nature writer of our time comes a posthumous new novel in the tradition of her Newbery award-winning Julie of the Wolves

In 1848 in Barrow, Alaska, a young Eskimo boy witnesses a rare sight—the birth of a bowhead, or ice whale, that he calls Siku. But when he unwittingly guides Yankee whalers to a pod of bowhead whales, all the whales are killed. For this act, the boy receives a curse of banishment. Through the generations, this curse is handed down. Siku, the ice whale, returns year after year, in reality and dreams, to haunt each descendant. The curse is finally broken when a daughter recognizes and saves the whale, and he in turn saves her. Told in alternating voices, both human and whale, Jean Craighead George’s last novel is an ambitious and touching take on the interconnectedness of humans, animals, and the earth they depend on.

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About the Author:

Jean Craighead George (1919 - 2012) was the author of more than 100 beloved books for young people, including the Newbery Medal winning Julie of the Wolves and the Newbery Honor winning My Side of the Mountain. She was a lifetime naturalist.

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George’s final novel, completed posthumously by two of her children, begins in 1848 when Toozak, an Eskimo boy, witnesses the birth of Siku, a bowhead whale. It’s an auspicious sight, but when Toozak accidentally leads Yankee whalers to an Eskimo whale-hunting ground, he must make up for his mistake by protecting Siku for the rest of the whale’s life—which can last 200 years. For two centuries, generations of Toozaks wait for the yearly return of the bowheads, diligently warn Siku away from danger, and witness the gradual modernization of their region and the slow decline of traditional practices. In chapters alternating between the Toozaks’ and Siku’s perspectives, George packs in detail about Eskimo traditions—from whale hunting to spirituality—and bowhead behaviors, including communication, some of which is rendered in squiggles representing whale songs. As usual, her research is clearly extensive, and it’s helped along by Hendrix’s informative opening illustrations. Though some human characters are occasionally wooden, this quiet story offers a compelling glimpse into the history of a way of life. Grades 4-7. --Sarah Hunter

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