This award-winning book is based on a real incident occurring in the winter of 1984-1985 where nearly 3,000 beluga whales became trapped in a rapidly freezing narrow strait in Siberia. For seven weeks the local villagers and the crew of an ice breaker fought to save the whales, breaking up the ice so they could surface to breathe. Amazingly they succeeded in breaking a passage through the twelve foot thick ice and led the whales to the safety of the open sea by playing classical music!
This amazing tale with a happy ending is recounted here by musician Steve Schuch who narrates the tale through the eyes of the fictional Glashka, a little girl residing in the nearby Siberian village. Peter Sylvada’s amazing illustrations lend an eerie beauty that enhances this wonderful story.
Steve Schuch also created a piece of music called “Whale Trilogy” that I first heard on an NPR broadcast many years ago. This very original composition tells this same whale rescue story musically by melding violin and actual whale songs. That hauntingly beautiful music is what led me to purchase this book and the CD. I urge you all to listen to the MP3 excerpt from this piece online at Steve’s website. It will make you want to rush out and buy both the book and the album, Wellspring: Live at the Folkway, on which is recorded Whale Trilogy.
I think that Wellspring: Live at the Folkway is unfortunately now only available as a cassette, unless you buy a used CD – which I linked to below at Amazon, but try Half.com and Ebay too. It is a wonderful album of children’s music and I highly recommend searching for it on CD.
In addition to being a lovely book in and of itself, A Symphony of Whales is a good addition to a discussion about whales, or life in a Siberian village!
Awards: A New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, A Parents’ Choice Honor Book, and Smithsonian’s Notable Books for Children.