God made Whale. God gave Whale a home in the blue-deep waters of the sea. God also gave Whale a family to splash and play and nuzzle with, silvery fish to eat, and a happy song to sing. And then…God gave Whale an important job.
That’s where Jonah comes into the picture in this from-the-whale’s point-of-view retelling of the biblical story. (Actually, the Bible identifiesa “big fish”, not a whale, but that’s just semantics.) So Whale swallows Jonah, then regurgitates him on the beach. That’s it. The pair never see each other again, though they never forget each other either. This picture book is best read by side-by-side with the original tale, or at least by those already familiar with it. The narrative is not placed in any context here, and the uninitiated won’t understand what in the world this guy Jonah has ever done to make God order Whale to swallow him. But it is a terrific companion book. The lovely, poetic text creates a fully realized world for Whale in language almost musical in cadence. Sometimes it’s even funny (“I am beginning to feel very queasy. It will not be my fault if I throw up!”). And the illustrations are equally beautiful, conveying splendidly the awesome glory of nature.