Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Whale Trails: Before and Now

Karas, G. Brian (Illustrator)
Macmillan 2015. 36 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9780805096422 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Non-Fiction

Text Elements:

layout, multimodal, point of view, recurring patterns, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

“My father and I live for the sea. He is the captain of the Cuffee whale boat, and today I am his first mate. Before now, each generation of my family sailed these waters in search of whales.”

In this work of creative non-fiction, storytelling language conveys the excitement of whale watching today and the American whale hunt of the past. “Up the gangplank and onto the boat, I lead a line of families, tourists, and naturalists—all of us whale lovers. Before now, aboard a whale ship were the captain and his crew … seamen, greenhands, cabin boys, escaped slaves and free blacks. They were all longing for wealth, adventure, and the open sea.”

Sweet illustrations use subtle textures and abundant details to create double-page spreads that pair full-colour and monochrome images to depict whale watching today and in the past, respectively. One spread compares arrays of equipment: the young first mate carries binoculars, a camera and a cable-knit sweater (“in case the weather takes a turn”); the facing spread shows whalers’ tools such as a harpoon, lance and blubber fork. The child’s snack of cereal bars and an apple contrasts with the hard tack biscuit of yore.

In the end, both ships return to shore: electric boat-lights illuminate a scene of the girl tidying up the deck; at the old-time wharf, a crowd gathers among barrels of whale oil. An author’s note provides further background on whale conservation and the whaling industry of the past, including its connection to black history and the Underground Railroad.

  •  

    Reflect on the past and how life has evolved over time. Why do things change (technology, knowledge, skills, perspectives, etc.)?

  •  

    Create a Venn diagram to compare what is common and what is different between the past and present in the illustrations.

  •  

    Write a story in which you are a crew member on a whaling ship. Include details of how it feels, smells and sounds on the ship. What is it like, living without modern comforts and niceties?

  •  

    Although whales are still endangered, laws have been passed to prevent their extinction and protect their habitat. Do some research on a different endangered animal and compare how its population is doing compared to that of the whales.

  •  

    As a group, discuss what you know about whales and whaling. Use a KWL chart to sort what you know and any questions you have on the subject.

  •  

    Go for a picture walk and discuss how the illustrator worked differently with the past and the present. Create a Venn diagram to compare what is common and what is different between the past and present in the illustrations.

  •  

    Research the physical differences between the types of whales mentioned in the story. Where can we find them in Canada? Are they safe or in danger of extinction? What threatens them today?

  •  

    It is no secret that several species of whales were hunted to near extinction. Gather in a small group and discuss why you think whales were so aggressively hunted in the past. Why are humans not hunting whales as much today?

  •  

    As you read, pay attention to each before and now two-page spread. Look for contrasts and similarities in both eras.

  •  

    What does the first mate / whale-watching guide of the Cuffee tell the passengers when they see a whale? Research one of the whale species mentioned in the text and prepare a sheet of interesting facts, similar in format to the speech the first mate might recite to the whale watchers over the microphone.

  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Environmental Awareness and Consumer Rights and Responsibilities
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Science and Technology