reviews and stories about parenting with picture books

if you want to see a whale, ride your bike to the park


If you want to see a whale, it is better not to pack a lunch, a picnic blanket, some books and the kids in the bike trailer and ride everything and everyone to the park.

On the way, (if you want to see a whale) don’t smell the milkweed and mustard flower, or wave back at the Queen Anne’s Lace waving to you from the side of the road.

If you don’t want to see a whale, slow down as you ride past sunflowers growing in a garden, a Cardinal swooping into a tree and a roadside stand selling raspberries.

If you want to see a whale, don’t chase your son with growls and “I’m going to get yous” all over the playground. And certainly don’t give your daughter underdogs until her feet touch the sky.

If you want to see a whale, you’ll have to pretend your daughter didn’t pick the picnic spot, in the shade of a tree next to a lake. You’ll have to pretend that you can’t taste the peanut butter and jelly, the pretzels and the grapes.

If you want to see a whale, you’ll have to shiver in the shade by yourself, rather than sit your son in your lap and your daughter as close to your side as possible.

You’ll have to leave the book packed in the bike trailer.

And yet…

Today, we saw a whale.

A giant, puffy, low, cumulus whale swimming slowly over our heads as we lay in the grass and looked up.

She swam by us just after we’d finished if you want to see a whale, by Julie Fogliano, with pictures by Erin Stead (Roaring Brook Press, 2013).

The book begins, in Fogliano’s recognizable free verse:

“if you want to see a whale/ you will need a window”


“and an ocean”


“and time for waiting/ and time for looking/ and time for wondering ‘is that a whale?’”

A young boy and his dog, (on every page there is a little bird, too), continue their whale watch, in their “not so comfy chair…because sleeping eyes can’t watch for whales/ and whales can’t wait for watching”

“If [they] want to see a whale/ [they’ll] have to just ignore the roses…” and “…the ship that is sailing with the flag that is flapping…” and the pirates, and the pelicans, and “…be careful not to notice/ something inching, small and green/ across the leaf, just nibble scoot…”

“if you want to see a whale/ you shouldn’t watch the clouds…”

And yet…

And yet…

Really, it’s just the opposite.

Get comfy in a chair. Smell the roses. Stare at the ship that is sailing. Ahoy! Pirates! And pelicans! Inchworms and clouds.

Use your imagination.

Today we looked.

Today we waited.

Today we wondered.

Today we saw a whale.


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