Jonah’s Whale

Eileen Spinel­li; Giu­liano Fer­ri, illus.
  • Review
February 26, 2013

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.

Discussion Questions