Title: The Boy Who Met a Whale
Author: Nizrana Farook
What's it about?
Razi is having a hard time adjusting to the loss of his father. He's avoiding going fishing or even being in the water that surrounds the island he lives on ever since he had to say good-bye, but he still made his way to the little beach he affectionately named Turtle Beach where he loved to watch turtles hatch and make their way to sea for the first time. But, on this particular morning, Razi finds himself lying to some bad men who arrive unexpectedly in a boat on the shores of Turtle Beach. While he knows he should protect the weak boy who arrived shortly before him, sunburned and dehydrated, he's not sure why he lies, and is even less sure why he agrees to help Zheng, (the boy he rescued) on a journey to find some hidden treasure before the bad men find it. And, he's even less thrilled when his sister comes along and insists on questioning and not believing the amazing, adventurous stories that Zheng shares about his time on a boat, even though Razi is sure they can trust him. And soon, the three children embark on an aquatic adventure in search of a treasure that the bad men are willing to die for, and nothing seems to go as entirely planned.
Favorite Character: While I liked all three of the kids, I would have to say that I think Shifa, Razi's sister, is my favorite. Sure, there's the girl power thing, but she she's smart, fast thinking, strong, brave, nurturing and loyal. She doesn't believe everything she hears and prefers to be presented proof, but she's not willing to offend or let someone be hurt until she can sort out the truth, the facts and what she things about the person.
While Razi is sweet, gentle, kind and loyal to a flaw. I love that he sees the good in people and waits to question until he has a reason (which is one of the ways that the siblings balance each other out on). He's always willing to help someone in need and fight for what he thinks is right, though him and Zheng tend to act first and think through things later.
Favorite Character: Obviously the bad men. While we don't get to know them very well but, they are chasing after a kid with the intent to do him bodily harm, at best. They feel kind of like cartoon villains in some ways, totally predictable, never committing any significant violence, though the threat is always hanging over everyone's head and not exactly the brightest crayon in the box, though no the dullest, either.
Favorite Parts: There are two. The first one is when Razi ends up on the beach when the fishers come in and he slaps a man with a fish. Yep. He sure did. While few other people in his life understood why he did what he did, I totally got it, and part of me (a big part of me) cheered him on. Maybe the guy didn't say anything "wrong" or untrue, but he didn't have to be a cold hearted jerk about it.
My second favorite part was when Razi and Shifa found themselves on a boat surrounded by whales, or really, one whale. As someone who has always had an appreciation for whales and their beauty, size and majesty, there was something magical about this scene. And, while I did have that iconic image of Free Willy in my head at one point, it felt so different and so much more magical even then that!
Least Favorite Parts: The time between when Zheng washed up on the shores and Razi saved him and when they head out on their adventure. I know it was important for getting to know the characters and the world they live in, but it was just slow and not as engaging for me.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I thought the story was cool, but I didn't love the execution. I don't mean to imply that the writing is bad or done poorly, because it's not. The author just chose to go with a writing style I've seen a lot in books for this age and, while understand why it was written the way it was and I agree that there are pros to that style, it's just not for me. This book is written in a very simplistic style with little to know background or outside information. I missed knowing more about anyone else's backstory besides the little bit we get about Razi. I was dying to know more about the island, the time era and the culture that they lived in. I sure didn't feel like modern day but they never said. I wanted see more world building and understand why things within the world and culture were the way they were. Things like how people didn't know about the whales or so many other things around their home island.
I did think it was a fun pirate story centered around good kids out to save the world by finding the missing treasure. Not quite like the Goonies, but there some Goonie-like aspects. It was age appropriate and filled with sea animals that have long since stolen my heart. It's not a book I think I'll read again, but I would happily recommend it to young readers looking for a fun, adventurous story without all the frills. And there were some pretty awesome animal lover moments there,too that might lead me to recommend this to kiddos looking for a story with animals without being all animals or fairytale like.
I give this book a
10 baby sea turtles
But that's just what I thought. What did you think? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Did the whale make you cringe? Let us know in the comments.