The Whale Child by C. Simpson
Simpson, Carroll. The Whale Child. Illustrated by Carroll Simpson. Heritage House Publishing Co. Ltd. 2016.
Simpson does not list an Indigenous community affiliation so I will be referring to this work as Indigenous-inspired based on the author information provided.
The Whale Child by Carroll Simpson is a story about a young girl who is swept out to sea after her village is destroyed and develops a connection with a whale to find her way back to her sister. It features Simpson’s signature West Coast First Nation inspired art style and style of storytelling creating a visually beautiful book that even younger readers might enjoy for the illustrations. Simpson acknowledges that this tale is not a traditional tale but rather one of her own creation with biological facts about whales at the end of the story; however, the artwork and phrasing in the story would likely mislead readers to believe it to be a traditional retelling. This is similar to her other titles in her Coastal Spirit Tales series which feature Indigenous-inspired art and storytelling making them a resource to be used only with critical thought.
The Whale Child has all the trappings of a book that would be easy to use as Indigenous content in early grades; however, doing so would displace Indigenous voices that could be used so I would caution against using this title only because it fits the assumptions of what Indigenous works look like.
For both librarians and educators, I would recommend engaging with your Indigenous connections prior to using this book to ensure that it is catalogued or implemented into the curriculum appropriately. It is possible that there may be Indigenous voices that your community would like highlighted in place of Indigenous-inspired works and that should be something critically discussed when looking at this book as an educational resource.
Recommended with reservations: 2 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Lorisia MacLeod
Lorisia MacLeod is an Instruction Librarian at NorQuest College Library and a proud member of the James Smith Cree Nation. When not working on indigenization or diversity in librarianship, Lorisia enjoys reading almost any variation of Sherlock Holmes, comics, or travelling.
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