Reviews for The Eye of the Whale

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Kirkus Reviews

With this story that amazes while it informs, readers cannot help but be touched by a singular event in which an ensnared humpback whale makes a profound connection with her rescuers.

Off the coast of San Francisco in 2005, a fisherman radios an alert that there is a trapped whale caught in crab-trap lines. When a rescue boat is sent to investigate, it is clear that extreme measures must be taken to save her. Four divers risk their lives to swim up close in order to sever each of the lines cutting into the whale’s skin. As the divers work, the whale’s big eye watches them. Once free, the whale dives, begins circling around the divers and then seems to disappear. Diver “James is puzzled.” In a dramatic page turn, readers can experience the same surprise as the diver: “With a jolt, James sees her heading straight for him!” This is just one instance where O’Connell expertly merges the art of storytelling with journalistic excellence in recounting this well-researched past event. The drama builds to the moment in which the huge whale gently gives “a little nudge” to every diver before swimming away. The painted illustrations portray the situation from various perspectives and are a strong complement to the gripping text.
A whale of a tale for sure. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

School Library Journal

In a spare text, O'Connell describes the rescue of a humpback whale that was found tangled in lines from crab traps miles off the coast of San Francisco. The huge mammal, barely able to breathe, was spotted by a fisherman. He radioed a captain, who assembled a team from the Marine Mammal Center. They rushed to the scene to try to save the massive creature. What happened next provides a captivating ending to this unusual tale and will spark discussion for the whale's ability to experience and demonstrate emotions. O'Connell's attractive paintings - many of them full spreads, some with insets - show the rescue from above and below the ocean surface and the tiny size of the divers compared with that of the whale, which is shown form many perspectives. The final page offers additional information.
— Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH

Green Teacher
A non-profit organization that circulates the most widely read environmental education magazine in North America

Can you imagine a whale looking straight into your eyes? Can you imagine a whale helpless and immobilized by hundreds of yards of crab trap lines? In The Eye of the Whale - A Rescue Story, Jennifer O’Connell beautifully tells the true story of such a whale. When a distress call goes out a rescue team jumps in to help. The divers risk their lives in efforts to free the whale, and when they save its life the whale in turn shows its gratitude to each one of them. O’Connell’s stunning illustrations bring the story to life. One can’t help but be mesmerized by the whale eye looking directly into the diver’s eye and feel the connection between animal and human. It’s a story that will touch readers and inspire them towards stewardship and care for other living beings on our planet. Different discussions will arise depending on the age group but the book is most suitable for grades K-3 and the website provides helpful teacher resources and extensions. — (VU)

Washington Parent

Author/illustrator Jennifer O'Connell, two-time recipient of the prestigious Christopher Medal, bases her new picture book on a heartwarming true story. Through spare, lyrical prose and stunning illustrations, O'Connell recreates the dramatic rescue in 2005 of a humpback whale entangled in crab-trap lines off the coast of San Francisco. Though frightened and unable to breathe, the 50-foot-long whale remains motionless as a team of scuba divers labors to cut the lines. Finally free, she "whirls round the divers in a fast, wild dance" and then gently nudges each one in what the divers construe as a gesture of thanks. O'Connell includes additional details about this specific incident and whales in general in her author's note, mentioning that the divers themselves describe this nudge as "one of the most fantastic moments of their lives."

Children's Literature

Based on a true event that occurred on December 11, 2005, author/illustrator, O'Connell, develops a richly illustrated picture book about the rescue of a whale in danger. When a distress call is received on shore, a team of divers board a boat in search of a whale trapped in a web of ropes. The divers know they must be cautious around the whale. One slap of her tail could kill them. They also know they must work quickly to cut the ropes as she is barely able to breathe. When the divers finally cut the last rope, the whale swims away. They wonder where she has gone. Suddenly they see her swimming toward them. The giant whale gives each diver a gentle nudge in gratitude. The limited text and enchanting pictures will leave young and old readers thrilled with the joyous ending, and in awe of the intelligence of whales and their ability to communicate. An account of the actual events of this rescue is included, as well as a website offering suggestions on how to use this book in the classroom. Reviewer: Jody Little

Parents Express - Montgomery Media

This informational picture book captures the excitement and danger of a real-life rescue of a whale in distress off the San Francisco coast. The humpback was so entangled in crab lines that divers from the Marine Mammal Center risked their lives to get close enough to free it. Then the most amazing thing happened — the whale swam quickly around the divers and then gently nudged each one before swimming away. The story is simply laid out for young readers and the magnificent realistic paintings add to the drama, using perspective and double page spreads to great advantage. Back matter includes a detailed account of the event and a link to information for using the book in the classroom. — Laurina Cashin, for Parents Express, Montgomery Media

Bay Views

In December 2005, a Bay Area fisherman happened upon a fifty-foot-long humpback whale tangled in crab trap lines, struggling to breath. This is the dramatic, picture-book account of the difficult rescue. The clear, direct narrative describes the sequence of events succinctly. Full page illustrations capture the whale’s immensity and life-threatening situation. Seascapes are beautifully drawn; human figures, less so. The cautious, determined rescue effort would suffice as the whole story, but the whale’s tender response add emotional resonance. Sure to be popular in the Bay Area and with whale-lovers everywhere. Author’s note appended. Review based on an ARC. 
— Linda Perkins, Independent