Wild Orca: The Oldest, Wisest Whale in the World

illus. by Wendell Minor. 40p. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250110695.
PreS-Gr 3—On the longest day of the year, people gather in the San Juan Islands to celebrate returning wild orcas. Loosely based on an actual "superpod" episode in 2008 (though it is never disclosed in the text), this sweet tale of waiting to welcome pods J, K, and L, led by Granny, the matriarch, serves as a framework to introduce the largest species in the dolphin family. With her researching parents, Mia listens with a hydrophone, thinking about the orcas' sophisticated communication and sonar. She worries about environmental threats, and watches for "bright blows of orca breath." Readers learn about orca travels, childcare, and an earlier stranding. Finally, all three pods arrive. The orcas leap and spin, clicking, calling, and whistling. Granny waves a flipper at Mia. In the back matter, readers learn that Granny was probably 105 when she disappeared in 2016. The author explains that "killer whales" is inappropriate for these salmon-eaters but she refers to them as whales throughout. She adds additional information and suggests ways for readers to get involved in conservation efforts. Minor's glorious gouache paintings capture the joy of the day, setting the stage, introducing the characters—both human and dolphin—and showing these gymnasts in action; Granny even spyhops in a rotated spread. Members of the Samish Indian Nation, a group that feel close ties to these extraordinary aquatic mammals, appear in the festival spread though they aren't mentioned in the text. The endpapers are helpful maps.
VERDICT An engaging, possibly inspiring addition to any nature collection.

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