Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Sally and the Singing Whale is a children’s picture book written by Betinna Hansen and illustrated by Tata Bobokhidze. Sally wants to go to sea with her dad, who’s a fisherman, but he’s just not willing to let her come along with him. When she asks why, he tells her that whales are monsters with sharp teeth. Sally has had many exciting adventures and loves seeing new things, but she’s both scared and skeptical of her father’s description of the whales. Her dad wants her to stay safely at home in her little treehouse that’s perched in a sunny clearing among hills and mountains. But Sally has other ideas, and while she looks sleepy as he sings her their lullaby, she’s ready to adventure once again as soon as he leaves. Sally gets dressed and follows him to the harbor where his ship is waiting. She stows away in what seems a perfectly safe place, but suddenly finds herself in the belly of a very large whale.
Betinna Hansen’s children’s picture book, Sally and the Singing Whale, is a lush and lovely fantasy about a girl’s interaction with a whale. I loved the feeling I got when reading this tale, that it was set when men like Sally’s father went whaling in ships often much smaller than their targets, and admired how Hansen is able to interject a sensibility into the fishermen’s mindsets after Sally and her father’s lullaby is sung by a pod of whales. Tata Bobokhidze’s illustrations are a masterful blend of rich colors, striking watercolor washes and marvelous little touches that bring each of these panels to life. Each and every page is suitable for framing and would make a grand themed wall in a child’s room. I found myself pausing and getting lost in each frame as I read of Sally’s adventures. The details are wonderful -- check out the little eyelashes on the whale, follow Sally’s path as she enters the whale’s baleen-fringed mouth and take a moment to find where Sally is hiding on the ship. There’s so much to enjoy about this book, both for children and those fortunate adults who happen upon this book when it’s story time. Sally and the Singing Whale is most highly recommended.