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review 2019-02-05 20:16
Song For A Whale by Lynne Kelly
Song For A Whale - Lynne Kelly

I've written, then deleted, at least four different versions of this review so far. Sometimes you pick up a story and it's so poignant, so important, that it's really hard to write anything resembling a coherent review. That's this book right here. Lynne Kelly has created something magical with Iris' story. It's not just the fact that she's a character who represents the Deaf community. It's not just the sweet way that she ties her passion for radios into communicating with someone who is just as lost as she is, in a sea of others. What makes this book special is how simply it shows how important connections are. To others, to yourself, to the world. I teared up while reading this book and, trust me, you're probably going to as well.

I wanted to give love, first and foremost, to Iris as a protagonist. You can absolutely tell that Kelly did her research, because Iris is precisely what readers from the Deaf community would be looking for in a character. Her inability to hear doesn't define her, but it does kind of set her apart in the world that she is attempting to navigate as a young person. She does a lot of growing from the start of the book, but my favorite part was watching her learn that she wasn't the only one who felt that way. I won't spoil, but there's a lot in this book about accepting others and, especially, appreciating their efforts to learn.

The scientific portion of this story, or the portion that had to do with the ever amazing Blue 55, was also beautifully executed. Learning about whale songs right alongside Iris made me smile. Kelly peppers in things like whale spout shapes, and fluke shapes, all the while making the learning feel like a normal part of the story. Plus, Iris' passion for all of this is infectious. I was rooting for her to communicate with Blue 55 right from the start, and you couldn't have pulled this book away from me if you tried.

I could gush on and on about the familial relationships in this book, or the way that it deals so perfectly with the loss of a loved one, but it would take many more paragraphs than you'd want to read. The fact of the matter is that this is both a gorgeous and important story. I thought the ending was a little bit out there but I had to remind myself that my middle grade self would have LOVED it. It's sweet, and Iris definitely deserved a happily ever after.

Read this! Put it into the hands of all the budding readers that you know. They're going to love Song For A Whale, and so are you.

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review 2014-06-16 17:24
Lynne Kelly: Chained
Chained - Lynne Kelly

To be fair, I didn't finish this book, so my impressions at page 82/242 are incomplete. Maybe this is a really great book starting in Chapter 12!

It probably says a lot about my personality that I made it through the poverty, childhood diseases, indentured servitude, classism, families being broken apart, animal cruelty, and child slavery -- but when it came time to beat the baby elephant, I tapped out. Looking back, I should have put this book down a lot sooner. I hung in there during some dark, depressing, bleak ruination of human children's lives, but it was hurting the baby elephant that took it over the top and ended the book for me. I feel pretty gross about myself that I made it that far. I wanted to quit when the <strike>circus</strike> slave master killed the little mouse that was Hastin's only friend, but disgustingly I hung in for a few more chapters.

Do you like elephants? Definitely do not read this book. Baby elephants? AVOID. How about innocent human children? Yes? Then I can't recommend this book.

No, I don't think all stories should be sanitizied for children's consumption. I've read enough Bettelheim to know that kids need to hear age-appropriate dark and scary stories a much as happy and fun stories. But oh my goodness no age is appropriate for this one. The evil people are so awful and greedy and cruel, and the good people are so weak and powerless and poor. And then, like I said, the baby elephant. I can't imagine it was intended to make the reader feel anything but sickening guilt and mounting dread? I found it unbearable.

It's my opinion that kids don't need to know the full extent of cruelty that humans are capable of. They already believe that ruining a family over hospitals bills is wrong, slavery is wrong, child slavery is wrong, and animal cruelty is wrong. So this book isn't teaching any lessons, except maybe, "It's actually way worse than your sweet young mind could even dream." Is that how you want to spend your twenty minutes with your kid at bedtime? Me neither.

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review 2013-12-01 00:00
Chained
Chained - Lynne Kelly A well-written middle-grade novel about a boy who become an indentured servant to pay his sister's medical debts. He is sent to work at a circus in the woods in India. First, he must help trap a baby elephant. He is reluctant to help because he watches the elephants every day and has become attached to them. The circus owner is a cruel, deceitful man. He illegally traps the elephant and then charges Hastin more days for being slow, for dropping things, for making mistakes. Soon Hastin's days as servant turn into months and still the circus owner makes him feel like he owes him more days.

Hastin passes most days helping the Burmese cook with cleaning and cooking, repairing fences and caring for the baby elephant that has been captured. The elephant and boy are treated harshly.

The chapters are elegantly crafted with true elephant facts, Indian culture, and the different languages and cultures that abound in India. This little gem of a novel will endure the passage of time because nothing about it is dated. These practices take place in India today, and if not India, somewhere in the world man will always oppress man.
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review 2013-01-02 00:00
Chained - Lynne Kelly Read my review at: Chained
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review 2012-01-29 00:00
Chained
Chained - Lynne Kelly A touching novel about compassion and friendship that lovers of animal lovers will certainly appreciate.
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