100 Scope Notes
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2014: The Year of the Whale

Inspired by the exceptional A Fuse #8 Production (who in the past has alerted us to The Year of the Chloe, The Year of the Jackalope, and The Year of the Raven) I’ve noticed an animal on the rise that I want to share. Let me try this out.


2014: The Year of the Whale

Do I have actual quantifiable data to back this up? No. Did I know how to spell quantifiable before that last sentence? Negative. Is that how you spell quantifiable? But what I do have is mounting anecdotal evidence to suggest that whales are where it’s at.

Before presenting my case, I’d like to note that I can understand why whales seem to be in the zeitgeist right now. Nothing says majestic beauty like these massive, intelligent, (mostly) peaceful creatures. The fact that they live so long gives them an air of wisdom as well. The book that put me on whale watch¹ was 2013’s If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead.

This story features, for my money, one of the best conclusions of the year, as the whale surfaces in front of the boy’s boat.²

Now in 2014, I can’t help but notice them everywhere. To paraphrase Great American Philosopher John Cusack in the film High Fidelity, “first they were nowhere, then they were everywhere.”³ They are even popping up in books that aren’t necessarily about whales. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far.

Breathe by Scott Magoon (April, 2014)

Following Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino (April 3, 2014)

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies (September 30, 2014)

Whaley Whale by Chris Raschka (April 8, 2014)*

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman (May 20, 2014)

Clara and Clem: Under the Sea by Ethan Long (May 29, 2014)

Bird & Squirrel: On Ice by James Burks (September 30, 2014)

Beekle by Dan Santat (April 1, 2014)

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell (April 2014)

Any more to add?

¹Another 2013 book featuring a whale was I Wish I Had… by Giovanna Zobol, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

² I also feel that book may have been the inspiration for this t-shirt, which we recently bought for our daughter:

³ Cusack’s character is talking about girls here, but the connection to this situation is clear. It also reminds me that maybe whales are in a lot of books every year and it’s just that now I’m noticing because I’m looking for them. Not sure.

* This is actually an older book that ABRAMS Appleseed is re-releasing, but I’m counting it.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Beautiful article Travis. I think it is the case with many things in life, that we begin to notice them everywhere after they are somehow brought to our attention. And if you ask me, whales are a lovely creature to start noticing in books. Thank you for sharing this fantastic collection and continued Happy Reading!

  2. I adore whales. So basically what you have just made here in this beautiful post is a shopping list for me. Sigh. I so loved If You Want to See a Whale – I kept buying copies when I gave my latest copy away as a gift because everyone should have that book . . . Thank you for a gorgeous read over my morning coffee.

    • Travis Jonker says

      Thanks for the kind words, Carrie – we are in agreement about this batch of books – a great-looking group

  3. How about the Drop Sisters from Bill Miller? I think Cough Drop is a whale.

  4. In the Cybils award winner for middle grade fiction, Ultra, by David Carroll, the main character hallucinates a blue whale while he is running his 100-mile race. It is a blue whale of enlightenment and comfort. You are right. Whales are everywhere, even in juvenile fiction. Bless their great big hearts.

  5. ReNae Bowling says

    Splat the Cat a Whale of a Tale if you’re counting books from series or books published in 2013.

  6. Librarian Lauren says

    Also from 2013: A Big Guy Took My Ball!!!

  7. What a fun post! I love it! I love whale based book lists.