The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold

  • Publishes on 31st March 2022
  • Features stunning illustrations by Levi Penfold throughout
  • Published by HarperCollins

Rio felt proud to be joining something bigger than himself. But it wasn’t just that. Being out in nature and watching the whales gave him something back too. Not just the feeling of calm or the taste of adventure but the sense of wonder that only the ocean could provide.

Later this month Hannah’s newest children’s book The Lost Whale will be published in glorious hardback, and features another compelling read based around another endangered animal, that of the magnificent Grey Whale.

Readers are introduced to Rio, a young boy that has just arrived in California to stay with his grandma whilst his mum recovers in a hospital. All that Rio has known throughout his eleven years on earth is that of living in busy London with his mum, who he takes care of and is extremely close to, which is a stark contrast to him arriving on the American coast, beside the powerful Pacific Ocean, with his grandma that he has no close relationship with at all.

Rio finds himself in awe of the ocean, and a sense of calm washes over him when he is drawn down to the shoreline. It is here he first meets Marina, a local girl that lives and breathes all things ocean, including living onboard a Whale watching boat with her dad. Her extensive knowledge of these ocean mammals is what draws the two together, and an unbreakable trust forms between them soon after. They are both especially drawn to one Whale known to visit the local coastline as it migrates for the winter, White Beak,

The interest in this particular Whale is incredibly personal for Rio as it relates directly to his mum, and provides him with a connection to his absent parent that bypasses the Atlantic sized void between them. Trips onboard the boat in which Marina dwells provide much welcomed distraction for the young boy as he searches for any sighting of White Beak to share with his mum during their phone calls, and later by email too. Rio learns everything there is to know about Whales during these trips, including the conservation resource network that exists to track and protect Whales from the dangers they continue to face from the human race.

Two of the biggest modern day impacts on Whales that are referenced in this book are plastic pollution, and ghost netting. This is when nets and equipment used within the fishing industry are discarded in the ocean and subsequently ensnare these majestic mammals as they navigate the ocean, and this horrifyingly happens to White Beak. It is emotionally powerful reading that is for sure, but it is equally compelling content, of which we are often all to ignorant to the details of. Thankfully Rio, Marina and their respective adults find White Beak in time to help instigate a rescue effort, and their is a heart warming conclusion to the Whale’s involvement in this ocean themed adventure.

They are able to locate the distressed Whale in the vast expanse of ocean in part because Rio is able to hear the echolocation sounds they make, and the boy and Whale appear to have formed a connection when Rio accidentally falls overboard upon first seeing her on an expedition early on in the book. The way Rio feels about White Beak is a reflection of how we do as the reader, especially after learning just how incredible she is, what she has likely endured during her lifetime, and how she still faces so much uncertainty going forward to. The same can be said of Rio, which is what makes these such a perfect matchup in this story. The reflection of a relatable, empathetical young boy’s struggles in that of an enormous ocean mammals helps readers to understand and comprehend that which is unfolding, both as individuals, and as their stories intertwine.

Rio counts down the days until his four weeks in California are up, and he is able to return home to his mum, but halfway through his stay he learns that his mum isn’t getting better, and when he confides in everything to Marina we learn that his mum has been struggling with her mental health, and the extent of what home life has been like for Rio. This is a hugely relevant topic for children to read about, and one many will relate to, either directly or indirectly. Rio’s admissions evoke a lot of empathy from the reader, and brings an awareness to mental health that is invaluable to adults and children alike. Everyone knows someone that is impacted by mental health, and the insight that is offered by including it in children’s literature means readers are better able to comprehend the many aspects involved.

Rio’s journey is one of self discovery, and to do so beside the waters shared by the spectacular Whales is something most of us can only dream of, but it is something you feel as though you have had the experience of doing so through the unbelievable attention to detail offered in this story. You genuinely feel as though you have been transported to the Californian coast, with the oceans breeze on your skin, and the sound of the ocean soothing your soul, and all of this is indicative of how immersive the content is. The authenticity to every aspect of this story allows you to feel right at home alongside Rio and Marina, and most importantly right there when White Beak makes her spectacular appearance too.

Hannah writes about poignant topics, affecting both humans and animals, and weaves them throughout the story, intertwining them together as much as giving them a spotlight individually. She writes about them sensitively, and gives readers many perspectives to consider, which ensures the intended audience are able to digest the seriousness of what they are reading without becoming overwhelmed. You can tell that these are topics close to the authors heart, that animal conservation is something she is incredibly passionate about, and is keen to bring awareness to, with the same applying to mental health too.

Rio is of course reunited with his mum, and builds a beautiful relationship with his grandma too, and all of this stems from his interaction with White Beak, and the significance she has with each of the family members too. The family dynamics included in this book make it easier for the reader to connect with the characters, and in doing so they will also become invested in how the story develops, and ultimately concludes. This book having both male and female ‘lead’ characters allows both boys and girls to feel as though this book has content relevant to them, and the gorgeous cover will definitely draw them in from the offset too.

I feel better informed in so many ways through reading The Lost Whale, just as I did after finishing The Lost Bear, and that is testament to how immersive and informative these books are. I have already looked at more information on Grey Whales as they have become dear to my heart after reading this book, and recommend this species guide page, and of course WWF’s Grey Whale page too. There are some beautiful photos and videos relevant to The Lost Whale on Hannah Gold’s website, where you will also find links to pre order this must read upcoming publication, and also sign up to Hannah’s Bear Club for a monthly newsletter full of ‘goodies, competitions, and more!’.

Check out my review of The Last Bear, which was Hannah’s debut title that published last year. It is a powerful and provocative read that I highly recommend if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, and is for sure a book I plan to return to again in the future. After I had read this book I went on to adopt a Polar Bear through the WWF, and genuinely believe that April’s message in the book about what a difference could be made if ‘every single person on the planet did one thing’ is something that will stay with me forever, and played a part in my desire to help in even a small way towards the conservation efforts, and I will continue to set that example in the hope that it inspires my children to want to do so, and others around me too. I fully intend to adopt a Grey Whale now too!

The Lost Whale is currently available to pre order from all good booksellers, and publishes on 31st March 2022.

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