Song for a Whale
Iris is a deaf girl in a family of mostly hearing people. Her grandparents were also deaf, but her parents and brother are hearing. Iris feels isolated both in her family and at school where she is the only deaf person. She does have one deaf friend who goes to another school. Iris becomes obsessed with the whale Blue 52 after learning about him in science class. Blue 52 is a hybrid whale who sings at a different frequency than other whales. So he cannot understand others and they cannot understand him. Iris identifies with Blue 52 and makes a song for him. She contacts the sanctuary in Alaska that is trying to tag him and they promise to use the song. Iris wants to be there when they tag him and can't understand why her parents won't fly her to Alaska and why the sanctuary won't let her help. Her grandmother decides to take Iris on an Alaskan cruise to get her closer to the whale.
I wanted to like this book and just couldn't. I found Iris to be just horrid. I know I am supposed to be sympathetic to her plight but I found her unreasonable and a bit of a bully. There is another student at her school who has attempted to learn sign language and communicate with Iris. Unfortunately, she has not learned very well, but Iris is horrible to her and actually makes fun of her and pushes her. She also laughs about her towards the end of the story. She is completely unreasonable about the whale. Why would any kid think there parents would let them go to Alaska to see a specific whale who may or may not be there? The fact that her grandma basically kidnaps her and doesn't tell the parents where they are seems pretty unrealistic as well. I was actually hoping she would not get to meet the whale but she does. I also thought that was pretty unrealistic. I don't think you are supposed to swim with whales (they are not dolphins after all).
I liked the idea of the story and the inclusion of a deaf character. I just didn't like Iris at all. And I am not sure how realistic her situation is portrayed. It seems unreasonable that her school would have deaf interpreters but then not treat her well. I also thought it was unreasonable that her mom didn't want her to go to a school with other deaf kids so she would have a more inclusive experience. I also wondered at how quickly her new friend on the cruise ship picked up sign language. She is on the ship a matter of days and Benny seems to be fluent in sign language and able to communicate with Iris. Her ease with Benny made me wonder why she didn't use writing more often at school to communicate with her peers or to even tell the girl her sign language was terrible. So many questions about this book!