This book…OMG. This book broke my heart and warmed it all at the same time. It is just LOVELY!
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This is a middle school level children’s story about belonging. The author tells the story of Iris, a 12-year-old deaf electronics geek, and a hybrid whale called Blue 55.
Iris is the only deaf student in her school and feels alone without anyone other than her (adult) sign language interpreter to truly communicate with her. Other than one girl that is a little TOO enthusiastic, literally getting in Iris’s face with her in her poor attempt at sign language and ignoring Iris’s feelings.
Iris’s mom speaks sign language fluently since she was raised in a home with 2 deaf parents, but Iris’s father has never fully learned sign language very well. Iris’s parents spend most of the book dismissing Iris’s feelings and it broke my heart to read about a father that doesn’t put the effort in to learn how to truly communicate with his own child.
One day, Iris’s science teacher shares a documentary on the story of Blue 55, a hybrid whale born of a blue whale and a fin whale. Blue 55 is unable to communicate with other whales because his song is much higher than the other whales. Iris immediately connects with Blue 55’s story and understands how lonely he must be and sets out on a mission to help him not feel so alone.
Since Iris is a whiz with electronics, (repairing old antique radios is an extremely passionate hobby of hers), she is able to figure out a way to engineer a 55-hertz song specifically for Blue 55. In her quest to play this song for the whale, she encounters much opposition and adults that clearly do not understand why this whale’s story resonates so deeply with her.
Beautifully written by a sign language interpreter, this story really made me think about so many things and makes it so very clear how important it is for everyone to have a community to feel truly connected with and heard.
As a homeschool mom, I see lots of potential rabbit trail learning here as well! Subjects that can be covered:
- hearing and deafness
- deaf culture and history
- sign language
- loss and grief (Iris’s grandfather has recently died when the story starts)
- sound and radio electronics
- whale species, whale songs, whale communities
- and I’m sure there are many more I missed!
I highly recommend sharing this book with your children! This would make an excellent read-aloud story!