Wilson, Jacqueline. The Longest Whale Song
September 30th 2010 by Doubleday Childrens
Copy received from the publisher.
Ella adores her mother, a teacher, and isn't thrilled about her stepfather Jack being in the picture. She is even more concerned that the expected baby will take even more time away from her. When her mother suffers from eclampsia and ends up in a coma after delivering her brother Samson, Ella and her stepfather are at a loss as to what to do. Samson stays in the hospital for a while, but eventually has to come home. The two manage to find a babysitter while Jack and Ella are off at school, but there is still a lot of care at home, which is further complicated by having to spend time at the hospital visiting her mother. Ella hopes that her father, whom she sees rarely, might come and take her back with him, but a visit with him is disappointing. Ella still needs to keep up with her schoolwork, and studying whales takes her mind off her mother's plight, and in the end, helps with her mother's condition.
Strengths: This was a nice change from the mothers in Wilson's stories who are just plain bad mothers: it certainly is not Ella's mother's fault that she's not able to take care of her family. There is support for Ella on various fronts, but things are still portrayed realistically as difficult. I can't think of another book where the mother suffers injury in childbirth.
Weaknesses: I didn't find the information about whales very interesting, but judging from the number of students I know who want to study oceanography when they grow up, including it was a good call. (Really? Students who live in Ohio want to study the ocean? Or do they just want to get out of Ohio?)
Look what goodness I got in the mail yesterday from Christine Melanson of RandomHouse UK! Diamond, which just came out! And chocolates! And biscuits! And beans! Oh, we were SOOOOO pleased. Let me just say-- Cadbury Heroes Creme Egg candy bites-- best thing EVER! Just the right combination of chocolate and creme! Off to buy potatoes so we can have jacket potatoes with beans just like they have for tea in so many of the Jacqueline Wilson books.
And Picky Reader (also here), who already has plans in place to study at the London School of Economics her junior year in college (she's 15 now!), says that when SHE lives in England, she'll send me boxes just like this.
Many thanks to Ms. Melanson and Ms. Wilson!