Whale Trails, Before and Now

by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Author) G Brian Karas (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

"My father and I live for the sea. He is the captain of the Cuffee Whale Boat and today I am his First Mate."

Whale-watching is a hugely popular pastime: at least 13 million people take whale-watching trips each year. But in the past, whaling ships hunted these animals to use their blubber for fuel and their bones for fishing hooks. As the whale population thinned, fortunately hunting ceased. Now, whale lovers go out on boats just to get a glimpse of these giant endangered creatures.

Narrated by a little girl out on the waves with her father, this is a story of marine history and the differences between then and now.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
This inventive look at maritime history has significant modern child appeal.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-3--A young girl and her father are first mate and captain, respectively, on a family-owned whale-watching vessel, the Cuffee. She explains that prior generations of her family were whalers. From that point on, the story moves back and forth between the past and present. "Before now," the girl says, "children were taught whales were dangerous sea creatures that devoured our fish supply and were good only for their baleen and blubber." Now, passengers view pictures of the whales that they might see on daily sightseeing trips. In the old days, whalers left in the summer and hunted whales in warmer waters. Nowadays, passengers "set sail...when the weather cools and the whales are everywhere feeding on copepods, sand lance, and krill." In the past, "this pier was lined with shops of shipbuilders, candle makers, blacksmiths, and sail makers." Today, the pier by the dock "is lined with booths that sell souvenirs, sunglasses, binoculars, and sunscreen." The book further explains the various tools whalers used, their life on board ship, and the products harvested from captured whales. Karas effectively contrasts past and present, using sepia tones for depictions of the olden times and colorful gouache and acrylic images for portrayals of current times. Endnotes include a short glossary and further information on the whaling industry and international efforts to protect whales.--Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA

Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

In a pensive story about how human perceptions of whales have evolved, modern-day scenes narrated by an African-American girl, whose family conducts whale-watching expeditions, appear alongside scenes of maritime history, drawn in muted grays and browns. A boardwalk full of families ready to board the Cuffee contrasts with a scene of whalers preparing to leave port. While the modern girl's backpack includes "snacks, binoculars, a camera, and a sweater," in whaling days, "the ship was packed with harpoons, toggles, lances, spades, blubber forks, and sailors' biscuits." Both text and art tiptoe around the brutality of whaling, skipping from "the first sight of blood" from a speared whale to the sailors' cleanup and the products derived from whales. Comprehensive author's notes help emphasize the pronounced shift from fearing whales to revering them. Ages 5-9. Illustrator's agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford. J. Greenburger Associates. (Jan.)

Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Praise for Light in the Darkness by Lesa Cline-Ransome:

"Vivid, rich language." —Booklist

"Solid text and soft, skillful illustrations combine for a poignant tribute to the power of education and the human spirit." —School Library Journal

Praise for The Village Garage, written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas:

"Children will enjoy watching this amiable crew balancing work and play as the year cycles through the seasons. . . . The appealing pencil, gouache, and acrylic illustrations offer wonderfully childlike depictions of the workers and their machines." —Booklist

"Sunny, energetic artwork makes life and work in this village feel joyous and rewarding. Inspired readers might head straight outside to their own yards, ready to weed the garden or rake leaves." —Kirkus Reviews

Lesa Cline-Ransome
Lesa Cline-Ransome is the author of more than twenty books for young readers including the award-winning Finding Langston trilogy. Her work has received a plethora of honors, including dozens of starred reviews, NAACP Image Award nominations, a Coretta Scott King honor, the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and a Christopher Award. Her work has been named to ALA Notable Books and Bank Street Best Children's Book lists and she lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York.

James E. Ransome's numerous accolades include a Coretta Scott King Medal, three Coretta Scott King Honors, and an NAACP Image Award. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and collaborator, writer Lesa Cline-Ransome.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Henry Holt & Company
Publication date
January 20, 2015
BISAC categories
JUV029000 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | General
JUV016140 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States - 19th Century
JUV002170 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Marine Life
JUV016050 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | Exploration & Discovery
Library of Congress categories
Endangered species
Whale watching

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