The Boy Who Met a Whale

Peachtree. Feb. 2022. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781682633731.
Gr 3-5–When Razi slips down to the beach early one morning to watch the hatchling sea turtles scurry to the safety of the sea, he finds a boat drifting near shore. In the boat, he discovers a boy, unconscious, parched, and covered with salt. Just as Razi pulls Zheng to safety and places him in the shade of the coconut trees, he encounters two nefarious-looking men searching for the boy, whom Razi quickly misdirects. When the beguiling Zheng regains consciousness, he quickly charms Razi into the adventure of his life. The two 12-year-old boys, along with Razi’s twin sister, Shifa, set off to recover buried treasure ahead of the pair of villainous crew members from Zheng’s storm-sunk ship. The story unfolds like a luminous fairy tale, enhanced by the ebullient Zheng, whose stories the twins find almost too outlandish to believe. Farook invokes the beauty of her native Sri Lanka with sparkling descriptions of island and sea. The intrepid trio manage to outwit their enemies with some quick thinking and a few assists from sea creatures, including the titular whale. Along the way, the three find more than the jeweled Dagger of Serendib; they find themselves. Each youngster ends up a wiser, better person: orphan Zheng finds a family, Razi rediscovers his love of the sea, and Shifa learns to trust. Like the sea turtles Razi loves, each child experiences growth on the sea, but also a pull back to the island.
VERDICT This lyrical story, reminiscent of Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories will be appreciated by all lovers of adventurous fairy tales.

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