Today I’m sharing a very timely picture book about a special journey through the oceans on the back of a whale which makes clear the devastating impact of plastic pollution on the seas and the creatures who live in them.
‘Where land becomes sky and the sky becomes sea,
I first saw the whale, and the whale first saw me.
And high on the breeze came his sweet-sounding song
I’ve so much to show you, if you’ll come along.’
Come on a magical journey of wonder and discovery from misty seaside shorelines to cold ice capped seas. This beautiful tale of friendship between a child and a whale invites us to consider our responsibilities towards the environment and makes a direct plea to end plastic pollution.
Firstly, let me just say that the illustrations in this book are absolutely beautiful and packed with emotion. They perfectly highlight the feelings of the characters – from exhilaration as they dance through the sea, to deep sadness when the extent of the damage caused by plastic pollution is revealed. Readers of all ages will love spotting the variety of creatures featured, but the eagle-eyed should also spot when the rubbish starts to creep in….
How The Tale of the Whale came about… by Karen Swann.
I began writing The Tale of the Whale back in 2018 after becoming more aware of environmental issues such as plastic pollution and our consumption of single-use plastic. I was beginning to make changes in the way that we, as family, shopped and used products. I remember thinking about the mascara (in a plastic tube) that I was using and that the whales didn’t have a choice whether I had long black lashes or not, but I did! I wanted to write something that looked at the issue of plastic in the ocean from the whale’s perspective. What would they want us to know? What would they want to show us?
Research threw up some mind-boggling facts, such as that at our current rate of production, it’s estimated that plastic could even outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050! (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) From there, a rhyming couplet flew into my head – something about there being “not enough room in the whole seven seas for all this plastic pollution and me.” Yes, first drafts really are that bad, but it gave me my character, Whale, and his voice and enough to understand what he needed us to know. But I also knew I needed to balance this story – it’s not enough to just say ‘there’s a problem’ without referencing the reasons why we should care.
I have been fortunate enough to dive in some of the most stunning areas of the world including the Great Barrier Reef, and the oceans are a beautiful, wonderous place. I wanted to reflect that in the whale’s journey and to show it from the eyes of someone experiencing it all for the first time, as I once did. So, the child character came to be, and I realised the story needed to be theirs to tell as they were the one experiencing both the wonder and the shock of what they saw. By putting the story into the child’s voice, I hoped that whoever was reading or listening to the story would experience the journey for themselves, and perhaps as a result would feel some connection and desire to make a difference.
The story is ultimately a tale of friendship and discovery that I hope will leave a lasting impression on those who read or hear it. I would like to think it might pave the way for discussions about the beauty of our oceans and the way that we share our world and live together within it.
I think getting readers to connect with the characters in a story and empathise with what they’re feeling is key to getting children to begin to understand some of the issues in the wider world around them. We all know that plastic pollution is a problem, but do we really know to what extent? What changes could we make to help reduce its impact? Collective action is crucial!
*Many thanks to Scallywag Press for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*