if you want to see a whale
By BarkingFrogFarm on January 15, 2014
If you want to see a whale is a book that's all about watching and waiting—seeing. The book was created by a talented pair: Julie Fogliano wrote the words, and Erin E. Stead did the artwork. Together they explore the idea that to see a particular thing you must know where to look for it, and sometimes wait for it.
On the playground at Schoolmates, the preschoolers often ask me to help them find acorns. Acorns are a favorite design element used to decorate sandcastles and cakes. When I am asked about where to find acorns, I walk the children over to one particular corner of the playground, point up, and say, "Do you see that tree? That's an oak tree. Oak trees produce acorns. If you want to find acorns, look under the oak tree." Then together we fill a bucket with the acorns found under that tree. The collectors see their surroundings a bit differently after this activity—their world rich with acorns because they now know where to look for them.
If you want to see a whale has a similar message: "if you want to see a whale you will need a window and an ocean…" The book explores how to look for a whale, and even how not to look for a whale. "If you want to see a whale you will need a not-so-comfy chair and a not-too-cozy blanket because sleeping eyes can't watch for whales and whales won't wait for watching."
The book plays with this idea in a poetic and abstract way. "If you want to see a whale you'll have to just ignore the roses and all their pink and all their sweet and all their wild and their waving because roses don't want you watching whales…"
Erin E. Stead's illustrations work beautifully with the text. She combines linoleum printing techniques with pencil to create gentle, playful illustrations that add to Fogliano's imagery. Through her illustrations we watch a young boy, a dog, and a bird as they watch, wonder, and wait for a whale.
This dynamic duo also created the award-winning, And Then It's Spring, which was featured by Barking Frog Farm in the post Ring in Spring.