Song for a Whale (Paperback)

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Song for a Whale By Lynne Kelly Cover Image

Song for a Whale (Paperback)


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Spring 2019 Kids Indie Next List

“A great book about the importance of community, understanding, and the spirit of adventure, Song for a Whale follows a young deaf girl whose curiosity is piqued by the story of a whale that is singularly unable to communicate with other whales. As the only deaf member in a hearing family, Iris immediately recognizes the severe loneliness of this situation, and her surge of empathy leads her to embark on a quest of growth and catharsis. There are myriad reasons why it is wonderful to meet a deaf heroine in young adult literature, but more than that, Iris is a wholly delightful character: a whiz-kid who digs electronics, who has a hot temper, who loves her grandmother, and who is vastly more than her inability to hear. I hope other readers enjoy meeting her as much as I did.”
— Amy Van Keuren, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

Staff Reviews

Iris can fix a radio, but she can't hear one. Blue 55 (a humpback whale) can sing, but his song is at a different frequency, so no whales sing back. When Iris finds out about Blue 55, she is drawn to his story. Iris knows what it's like not to fit in.  She can't convince her mother that going to an a"all-deaf" school would be better for her than the school she is in.  Blue 55 can't figure out why none of his fellow whales don't sing back to him, and he doesn't have his own pod.  Iris feels so strongly about Blue 55, that she convinces her band teacher to allow the kids to gather and all play their instruments at the same frequency that Blue 55 sings.  She mixes and cuts sections of the music to make a special Bluee 55 "song."  Now, she's just got to figure out a way to get him to hear it.

I love the way Iris keeps trying, hoping, and wishing for different ways to make her dreams come true throughout this book.  There are unanticipated hurdles, wrong turns, and dead ends.  And she never gives up.  Tenacity without a bad attitude.  Now that's a girl after my own heart.  She'll grab your heart as well.  Best for 9 and up.

— From Jessilynn

The award-winning story of a deaf girl's connection to a whale whose song can't be heard by his species, and the journey she takes to help him.

"Fascinating, brave, and tender...a triumph." --Katherine Applegate, Newbery Award-winning author of The One and Only Ivan

From fixing the class computer to repairing old radios, twelve-year-old Iris is a tech genius. But she's the only deaf person in her school, so people often treat her like she's not very smart. If you've ever felt like no one was listening to you, then you know how hard that can be.

When she learns about Blue 55, a real whale who is unable to speak to other whales, Iris understands how he must feel. Then she has an idea: she should invent a way to "sing" to him! But he's three thousand miles away. How will she play her song for him?

Full of heart and poignancy, this affecting story by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly shows how a little determination can make big waves.

And make sure to read Lynne Kelly's next book and instant classic, The Secret Language of Birds!
Lynne Kelly has always loved reading, but while working as a special education teacher, she fell in love with children's literature all over again. She lives in Houston, Texas, and works as a sign language interpreter while writing books for kids. Her first book, Chained, was a South Asia Book Award Honor and Crystal Kite Award winner. Song for a Whale is her second novel. Find her online at and on Twitter at @LynneKelly.

Product Details ISBN: 9781524770266
ISBN-10: 1524770264
Publisher: Yearling
Publication Date: December 31st, 2019
Pages: 304
Language: English
Schneider Family Book Award Winner
A New York Public Library Best Book of the Year

"At its luminous heart, Song for a Whale is a tale about longing for connection and finding it in the most magical and unexpected of places. Fascinating, brave and tender, this is a story like no other about a song like no other. A triumph." —Katherine Applegate, Newbery Award-winning author of The One and Only Ivan

Song for a Whale is beautifully written and is such an important story for kids with big struggles in their lives.  I fell into Iris's world from the first chapter.  Lynne Kelly does an amazing job telling the story from Iris's perspective.” —Millicent Simmonds, actress, Wonderstruck and A Quiet Place

"A quick-moving, suspenseful plot takes her from junkyards to a cruise ship as she [Iris] gains the confidence to stand up for herself and take control of her life. Written by a sign-language interpreter, this story incorporates important elements of Deaf culture and the expansiveness and richness of ASL...this remains a satisfying, energetic read. Iris' adventures will engross readers." —Kirkus Reviews

"The strength of the book is its strong portrayal of Iris as a deaf girl in a hearing world and an intelligent 12-year-old in headlong, single-minded pursuit of her goal." —Booklist

"Subtly and poignantly drawing a parallel between the girl and whale, Kelly (Chained), who has worked as a sign language interpreter, relays Iris’s venture with credibility and urgency. This finely crafted novel affectingly illuminates issues of loneliness, belonging, and the power of communication." —Publishers Weekly

"Iris’s depth of empathy, the joy she feels working with radios, and the skillful way she navigates two different worlds of communication create an authenticity that will resonate with Deaf and hearing readers alike... An uplifting tale that’s a solid addition to most collections; especially recommended for libraries needing stronger representation of Deaf protagonists." —SLJ