Book Review: Ida and the Whale by Rebecca Gugger

blur-boat-paper-416904 (1)When I was a kid, I lived in a valley with a creek to the east of our property and a small stream that ran between us and our neighbor’s yard. After a storm, that little stream swelled to the tops of the banks with water and my sisters and I would put together boats with whatever materials we had on hand. Paper, mayo jar lids, sticks. Whatever would float and then we would see if we could race it to where the small culvert dumped into the larger creek.

The illustrations in Ida and the Whale, by Rebecca Gugger, from page one took me right back to that stream and those afternoons we spent in the creek. Making boats, making-believe we were stranded on an island and only had the woods and water to sustain us.

Ida is a girl who questions the world. She wants to see all the big things in the universe. The sun, the moon, the stars, and through her imagination she calls a whale to swim her through the forest of birch trees to touch the sky.

Fantastical? Yes. Whimsical? For sure. Ida is the child that still is inside each one of us, if we could put away our grown up logic and systems and worries. After reading this book, I wanted to take off my shoes and go stomp in a puddle or find a field to lay in and

Just. Hear. Silence.

Ida and the Whale, won’t make sense to most adults, but I know when you read this book to your child she will dream big and isn’t that the magic of stories?

Literacy skill highlighted

Print Motivation. Kids love fantastical books as they get older. This might be a tough read for a young preschooler, but older preschoolers or kindergarteners will enjoy the questions she has.

Activity beyond the book

Get outside. Find a field to lay in, a stream to explore, or just sit and watch a sunset. This book screams to be re-enacted in the real world.

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Pre-order

(I am an amazon affiliate, which means if you click the picture and make a purchase from Amazon, I receive a portion of the sale.)

  • Will be published on April 2, 2019
  • Written by Rebecca Gugger and illustrated by  Simon Röthlisberger

Other books to enjoy:

Book Review: Bear’s Winter Party by Deborah Hodge

Bear’s Winter Party by Deborah Hodge. Illustrated by Lisa Cinar. Groundwork Books, 2016.

Preschool Readers

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS BOOK

Bear wants to be friends with the other animals in the forest but everytime he comes near they hide. Bear discovers a way to make new friends and show the forest animals he isn’t as scary as he looks.

Bear’s Winter Party is rich in vocabulary. The opening page brings text filled with unique words to enrich your child’s exploding vocabulary.

Bear lived in a forest on the side of a mountain. He felt at home among the trees. He nibbled on sweet wild berries. He sipped cool water from the stream. He breathed in the fresh mountain air.

The author also does a great job of creating word pictures instead of telling the reader how the animals feel.

Wherever he went, Bear heard the other animals talking about him.

“He’s so big!” said Squirrel.

“His claws are long,” said Hare.

“His teeth are sharp,” said Deer.

“His voice makes a rumbling sound,” Said Chickadee.

The author builds through dialog how the animals feel when they encounter the bear. Instead of telling the reader the animals are afraid of bear, she shows through how the talk to each other and how they act around bear. It provides the perfect opportunity to ask questions as you read and create conversation around the story.

The author also includes literary devices such as alliteration (the same starting consonant sound) and assonance (the same ending sounds) to provide a cadence driven text. This type of writing helps young ones hear the sounds that make up words, which helps them learn to decode before they even begin to read.

Before long, the whole group was dancing. Round and round the den they went, swinging and swaying, whirling and twirling, bobbing and bouncing.

And my favorite part is the recipe at the end of the book. Recipes are a great way to build math skills like fractions, number recognition and unique vocabulary. It is a hands on way of learning how to divide and count. It not only helps the story become concrete for your child but it continues learning beyond the page.

Along with all the pre-literacy skills your child will develop with repeated readings of this story, research shows that fiction helps readers gain empathy through others. Most children can relate to being scared of meeting new people, being in new situations, or being scared to make friends. Listening and talking about how Bear solves his problems will help your child be a more compassionate and empathetic friend.

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HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

One of the strengths of this book is the conversation created around feelings. After reading the book a few times go back and tell the story by how Bear feels. How he starts out feeling, what he does with those feelings and how he feels at the end of the book. You can also do the same with the forest animals. To continue dialoguing about feelings, draw faces with your child and label underneath each picture how the person feels.

Talk about the pictures on each page. The watercolors are vibrant and full of detail. Point to an object on the page and have your child tell you what she sees. This builds vocabulary.

Because this story takes place in a forest, the end pages are filled with pictures of different types of leaves. Go on a nature walk and see if you can find similar items in your yard or neighborhood. Take leaves home with you and take crayons or pencils and do rubbings of the leaves or trace the shapes.

Make the recipe at the end of the book! Cooking with your children is a great way to build confidence, but also provides an opportunity to point to text on the page and read it to them. They will see how you move across the page and highlight print awareness.

WHAT TO READ NEXT

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What are your favorite books about bears? Help others discover new books in the comments below.

HAPPY READING!