Willa and the Whale Summary
Can a whale talk to a human? Willa thinks so .
After losing her mom, Willa is grieving and having a hard time living with her dad and his new family on an island off the coast of Washington State. Her dad tries to cheer her up by taking her whale watching, something Willa’s mom used to do.
While all the passengers are on one side of the boat, Willa encounters a humpback whale on the opposite side. Willa feels so lonely that she starts to talk to the whale—and the whale talks back!
The whale, named Meg, quickly becomes a trusted friend and confidante Willa can speak to whenever she’s by the ocean.
Meg offers sound advice Willa needs about dealing with a nemesis at school and trying to figure out why her friend Marc is keeping secrets about his family life.
Before the story ends, it will take all of Willa’s courage and connections to tackle a problem that’s as big as a blue whale!
Willa and the Whale Review
Life is hard. Life is especially hard when you’re 12 and your mom has died and you’re living with his dad and his new family, and trying to figure out what life looks like and what normal looks like. And that is Willa’s life.
Middle school is hard enough for a lot of kids, but add in major unexpected life changes and it becomes immeasurably harder. But Willa finds an unlikely confidante to help her cope—a humpback whale. Meg the whale, becomes the place Willa can go as she feels alone and begins to work through some of these challenges. As she begins to pick up the pieces of her life, and learn how to not only reconnect with old friends, but to connect with her new siblings and stepmother, Meg becomes her “safe place.”
Every middle schooler (every kid, really) needs a safe place, even when they don’t have tremendous life changes. This book is a great tool for opening a dialogue with the kids in your life about being able to have someone to turn to, a coping mechanism and a support for when life has challenges. It’s also a great lesson for kids to help them learn to look at those around them, and realize their peers have challenges, too. And that they can learn to look at them with compassion, because a nemesis doesn’t always have to be a nemesis.
Chad Morris and Shelly Brown have definitely demonstrated a gift for writing relevant middle grade fiction that is not only entertaining and draws you in, but can also help tweens and kids navigate some of the challenges of life. Their previous books, Squint, and Mustaches for Maddie, are equally worth adding to your family reading list as Willa and the Whale is.
While this is an age-appropriate read for middle graders, I think it’s ideal as a family reading book to help start discussions about the challenges of being a tween or teen or just a kid.
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