2 out of 4 stars
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Galaxy’s Whale by Trina Casey is an intricate children’s story that encourages introspection and emotional openness. The story follows Safiya, a young princess who has recently lost her mother. Between princess classes, her father’s quick remarriage, and her siblings’ perfection, Safiya is feeling lost in her own life. Although she loves her family, she decides to run away. Safiya is sneaking out of her bedroom when her half-brother catches her, so she decides to wait until he has fallen asleep. While she is waiting, she falls asleep and into a dream world beyond imagination. Safiya meets a unicorn called Galaxy who takes her on a journey in the mouth of a whale to an island full of magical creatures. There, Safiya discovers her inner beauty and is faced with the decision of staying on the island and forgetting her family or going home.
Although this book is written for children, it involves multiple complex themes like grief and resentment. Safiya’s stepmother denies her new daughter her love because she knows that Safiya reminds her father of his previous wife, who he loves more than the stepmother. This is complex even for an adult to follow, and it’s only one of many storylines woven into the book. Because of the multiple messages and stories, it appears the book is aimed at older children. However, it’s formatted like a picture book and employs a wide variety of vocabulary. There are many simple sentences, but the author also includes ideas like a marriage of convenience and moving on too quickly after the death of a spouse. Many children will not understand these things, and I doubt those who will would be interested in a picture book.
I give credit to the illustrator, Mari Nkomo, for the beautiful drawings of Safiya, her family, and the dream world she visits; however, the formatting of the book makes the drawings and story seem as if they are at odds with each other. First, there is no picture on the cover of the pdf version I received, which is odd for a children’s book. Also, many of the pages are filled entirely with text or a picture rather than a combination of the two. On occasion, I was confused because a picture depicted a scene which wouldn’t take place until the following page. Finally, those pages that had both text and a picture on them often used black text, which could be difficult to read when overlaid on a dark picture.
I would give this book 2 out of 4 stars. The story is truly original, and it appeals to the imagination of children. On the other hand, there are many complex themes involved that aren’t explained well, and the vocabulary and structure of the book don’t appeal to any particular age group. My overall impression is that the author needs to add more pictures, delete some of the text, and focus on one storyline to actually teach a young reader a lesson.
I would recommend this book to children ages 5 to 11 depending on their reading ability and maturity. This book will definitely have to be read with a parent who is willing to explain the many mature themes involved.
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