A Symphony of Whales

Title: A Symphony of Whales

Author: Steven Schuch

Illustrator: Peter Sylvada

Publisher, Year: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2002

Number of pages: 32

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: Based on a true story, Steve Schuch writes a story about a young girl named Glashka who has a special gift in being able to hear the whale spirit, Narna. When Glashka and her parents are coming home from a neighboring village in 1984, the sled dogs begin to pull towards the ocean. There, they discover the three thousand whales trapped in a Siberian Strait and called a Russian icebreaker to break the ice so the whales can go back to sea. Seven weeks pass while the villagers keep the whales alive by chipping ice to give them more air to breathe and feeding them some of their fish. When the ship finally reached the strait, it played three types of music before finding that the whales would follow when it was playing classical music.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: This book clearly incorporates diversity between the Russians and Chukchi tribe and still being able to work together. The students may have studied Indian tribes and so having them make comparisons between the Chukchi tribe and others. Students also could ask how an Indian tribe has a belief in spirits which could foreshadow a lesson about different religions around the world. I foresee a discussion talking about why the people had gone hungry  and what other people we know about who are hungry happening and how they resolved the problem, as well.

Interdisciplinary Connections:  This book would work well as a science integration because the whales are trapped in a strait and the way to them to follow the ship was to play an unknown type of classical music. I could see a teacher talking about the Mozart effect and how their parents may have used that technique with them as babies. As an art integration, have students create a visual representation of what they are thinking/feeling/hearing when they hear the story read and again based on the paintings Peter Sylvada created.

Other Information: Peter Sylvada’s oil paint illustrations are phenomenal. They really helped tell the story aside from the text. Students may not be familiar with Indian culture, and these pictures are a current representation of such. He has a website with a portfolio of his other works, if students are interested. Steve Schuch has written two other books, but they appear to be more geared towards adults. I didn’t know how I was going to feel about the book when I started reading but I grew to appreciate it especially since it was based on a true story of a rescue that happened only 30 years ago.

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