Whales: Diving Into the Unknown (Science Comics) by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Casey Zakroff

Whales: Diving Into the Unknown (Science Comics) by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Casey Zakroff, art by Pat Lewis. First Second, 2021. 9781250228383

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Paperback, nonfiction graphic novel 

What did you like about the book? A small Cuvier’s beaked whale named Zip swims and chats with a variety of cetacean species to learn all about their kind.  From a humpback whale who teaches him about whale sounds, to the pilot whale who helps him understand the diversity within the whale family, Zip gets a crash course in marine biology all while being tracked by scientists in a boat.  Zip interviews the other whales he meets and tells them he is working on a ‘podcast’ to share information with the scientists.   

This is a densely packed book, covering a wide range of information including evolution, biodiversity, and ocean ecology.  The graphic novel format and the conversational tone of the text make it somewhat accessible for readers, but it will really only appeal to committed whale fans with solid background knowledge.  As Zip and his new friends pop in and out of oceans and transition to new topics, chapters or section headings would be really helpful in navigating this undersea adventure.  Backmatter includes a whale glossary and a ‘human impact glossary,’ as well as a few footnotes (which are not denoted in the text) and a list of further reading.  

Anything you did not like about the book? It might have been appropriate to focus on one or two aspects of whale science rather than try to cover everything in one slim volume; the number of topics was rather overwhelming.  A more in-depth glossary would be appreciated as the book is loaded with technical and scientific terms, and perhaps an index to aid researchers.

To whom would you recommend this book?  The Science Comics series does have a pretty loyal following among upper elementary students, so I’m sure those readers will be happy with a new entry.  The focus on the human impact is noteworthy and will appeal to young environmentalists.  Students needing whale facts for a research project should look elsewhere for a book with more annotation.

Who should buy this book? Public, elementary and middle school libraries where the series is popular

Where would you shelve it?  Nonfiction – 599.5

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: November 8, 2021

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