Unlike most whale books for children, The Secret World of Whales is narrative rather than photography-centred. Beginning with their impact on religion and mythology, Charles Siebert traces whales’ impact on human civilization and understanding of ourselves.
Even the tragic aspects, such as the development of the harpoon, are fascinating. People were so caught up in the modern wonders the sperm whale brought (clean light, corsets, shock absorbers, etc.) that little attention was paid to whether or not the resource had limits. Conservation efforts have been in place to one degree or another since 1931, and eventually have led to a whole new understanding of whales.
Siebert highlights the research demonstrating that whales share many of the characteristics we thought made us uniquely human such as empathy, trust, use of tools, and self-recognition in mirrors. Much attention is given to their complex communication patterns as well as the threat noise pollution poses. The unique focus on the human-whale connection makes this a good choice even for children who have read a lot of whale books. Unfortunately there is no bibliography making further discovery more difficult than necessary.
Fiction connection: Dark Life and Rip Tide by Kat Falls. A future where humans live underground. The children born underwater demonstrate adaptations, some of which are clearly inspired by whales.
For more STEM book reviews today, head on over to Booktalking, host of this week’s STEM Friday roundup.