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Book Review – The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold

Limited edition, signed, Goldsboro Books copy of The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold, with print by Levi Pinfold. Image by Ryan Mizzen

Sunday 10th April 2022

Sometimes books come along that inspire a generation to bring about positive change in the world. I believe that author Hannah Gold, has achieved that with both The Last Bear, and her stunning new middle-grade fiction book, The Lost Whale. To sum-up my feelings of this beautiful story in one sentence; The Lost Whale is a “heart-shaped rainbow” of a book.

Where The Last Bear took us to the Arctic to witness the impact of climate change on polar bears, The Lost Whale takes us below the waves into the increasingly threatened lives of whales. It’s a siren call to protect our oceans from multiple threats including climate change, pollution, discarded fishing nets, noise pollution (from military activity and oil drilling), and boat collisions with whales. In this new adventure, you’ll feel the salt-spray on your face, the thundering power of the waves through the soles of your feet and the soul-stirring emotion that comes from the base of the heart. It’s both life-affirming and life-changing at once. The illustrations by Levi Pinfold, also help bring this new classic vividly to life.

The protagonist is Rio, whose mum has mental health issues and has to go to hospital. She has arranged for Rio to travel to Ocean Bay, California where his grandmother, Fran, lives. In Rio, we have a young child-carer who has been there for his mother, practically taking care of both of them in their London flat with all the weight of responsibility that involves. But Rio never complains, he just wants his mum to get better. Rio has been so focused on helping his mum, that he hasn’t been able to take care of himself.

What should have been just a four-week stay with Fran in Ocean Bay becomes extended, as his mum needs to spend longer in hospital than doctors initially thought. However, he has since discovered some extraordinary information about his mother. In her childhood sketchbooks, she has a magnificent drawing of something very close to her heart – a grey whale called White Beak. Grey whales are known as friendly whales, who just so happen to blow heart-shaped rainbows. Rio comes to learn that White Beak used to make his mum smile, and he believes if he can send her pictures of whales that she’ll be happy once again.

Enter Marina, whose father Birch, runs Spyhopper Whale-watching Tours. Rio is invited to join them on a whale-watching tour, where the incredible happens. Not only does Rio see whales up close for the first time, but he sees White Beak! But this is where the goose-bumps kick-in. Rio can hear White Beak, one of only a few people who seem to have the ability of hearing whales. And he has a special connection with her. She is his saviour. But can he also be hers in White Beak’s time of greatest need? When White Beak becomes lost on her annual migration, it will take someone who has the ability to listen to whales to find her. Someone who can listen not just with their ears, but who has the capacity and love to listen with their entire heart.

The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold. Image by Ryan Mizzen

“None of us can save the world single-handedly. But together we might just stand a chance.” – Hannah Gold, The Lost Whale

Hannah has masterfully created another absolute page-turner. Like The Last Bear, it’s one of those books that transcends genres or reading ages, because it’s a wonderfully told story. One with humanity, love, kindness and connection at its core. While incredibly important for its timely environmental message, this is also a book that may help those with mental health issues, and those who care for them. It introduces young readers to the effects of mental health illness in a non-distressing manner, by living vicariously through the characters.

The phenomenally talented Hannah Gold, is also blazing a trail as a world-changing author. Last year, I wrote a review of The Last Bear, where I said that it was the best cli-fi book I’d ever read and that it would become one of the best books of 2021. As it turns out, even I underestimated the impact of The Last Bear, which went on to:

  • Win the 2022 Blue Peter Book Award for Best Story
  • Win the 2022 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize
  • Gain a nomination for the CILIP Carnegie Medal
  • Become shortlisted for Children’s Fiction Book of the Year at The British Book Awards 2022
  • Become Saturday & Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week
  • Become the biggest hardback debut of 2021

Now Hannah has followed this up with an eco-fiction story that is both equally powerful and emotional, and deserves all the praise that it’s sure to receive. Her two books easily rank amongst my favourite books of all time. I don’t use these words lightly, but The Last Bear and The Lost Whale are world-changing books, and they’ve arrived (just like White Beak) at the time we need them most. I’ve previously recommended The Last Bear as the best example of climate fiction in an article for Mongabay, about the power of stories in bringing about climate action. I now wholeheartedly recommend The Lost Whale as the best example of eco-fiction that I’ve come across.

Limited edition, signed Goldsboro Books version of The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold. Image by Ryan Mizzen

“There were many grown-ups all round the world who seemed to be waiting for the right moment to do something. Many people who were leaving it too late.” – Hannah Gold, The Lost Whale

Our leaders need the best possible science and advice to make the rapid changes we need on the climate and ecological crisis. But to truly wake them from their political stupor, we need stories to reach their hearts. For that reason, I say give them copies of Hannah’s books, because they will get through in ways that facts and figures simply can’t – by appealing to their emotions. My suggestion to everyone else? Search out a signed copy of The Lost Whale while stocks last – you won’t regret it. Ocean’s promise.

My new cli-fi children’s picture book is Nanook and the Melting Arctic. Nanook is a caring polar bear who lives in the Arctic. But when his igloo starts melting, Nanook must find a way to save his friends and his home. He knows that the people who can help are also those who’ve caused the problem and he must find a way to convince leaders to act on the climate crisis. You can purchase Nanook from Amazon’s global stores including Amazon UK and Amazon US.

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