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Song for a Whale: 03/16/19
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly is about the connection a Deaf girl connects with a whale who doesn't seem to have any other whales who can understand him. She uses her love of fixing old electronics (especially radios) to find a way to communicate with him so he knows he's not alone in the world.
For the most part, Nina dislikes her school. She has a classmate who tries to help by speaking in sign but it's not ASL and she doesn't respect Nina's personal space. There's the teacher who would rather send her to the office than see things from her point of view.
Things change when in science class she sees a video about Blue 55, a whale who sings in a frequency that is too different from other blue whales. Nina as the only Deaf kid in her school has a gut reaction feeling to how Blue 55 must feel about being alone in the ocean. She also, through her knowledge of electronics, sees a way to send him a message.
And so she does.
The "and so she does" aspect of this novel takes a rather conventional but delightful middle grade novel into the road narrative spectrum.
Although Nina primarily works by herself, she does not travel by herself (save for a few brief instances). The bulk of her traveling she does with her grandmother which puts her as traveler in the family category (33). Her goal is to meet up with Blue 55 and play the song she has written for him to him herself. As he is a whale, his location (the ocean) counts as wildlands (99). Finally, how she gets there (again save for a brief detour) is via a ship. Going over water is offroad (66). Put all together, Song for a Whale is family journey to the wildlands by an offroad route (339966).
Throughout all of Nina's narrative, from the trouble at school, to her radio projects, to her Blue 55 song, to her journey, her voice is strong and unique. Though there are other middle grade novels with Deaf characters, they are rarely the protagonists. Nina joins Macy (Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green) as being on a very short list of lead Deaf characters in middle grade fiction.