A Whale of a Parenting Tale
Following Papa’s Song
By Gianna Marino
Recently, we observed “Take a Child to Work Day” and I’m sure loads of moms and dads took their young readers to see what they “do” all day. Young children have images in their minds, I’m sure, of where their parents are while they are at home, school or daycare. So, it’s a treat for kids to tag along and actually see where you are when you’re not with them, and what activities occupy you!
Gianna Marino, author of Too Tall Houses and Meet Me at the Moon has used animals in her picture books to great advantage in telling stories with deeper themes of friendship, togetherness and the parent/child bond.
In Following Papa’s Song, it’s not exactly following the Papa Whale to work, but then again maybe it is. It’s certainly reproducing those great Q and A’s reminiscent of many asked by the very young. And they are: “Are we going very FAR?”, asks Little Blue of his dad.
Papa Whale informs Little Whale they are going to greater depths than they ever have before in the briny deep. It’s a sort of metaphor for the untried and new experiences in a child’s life. I like that. New experiences are exciting for a child and, at the same time may be a bit frightening in that they are a subliminal prelude to the question all children secretly feel, “Will you always be there for me?” Little Blue’s persistent questions are those of every child – “How will we know which way to go?” and as Papa relates the age old call of the whales’ song, Little Blue queries, “When I am big, Papa, will I still hear your song?”
Ms. Marino’s Little Blue keeps Papa in sight as they plumb these new and greater depths of the ocean of life where it is VERY QUIET and sound is harder to decipher – sounds like the cry of Little Blue calling for Papa!!
Can Papa hear the call of his young one? Will Little Blue gain the confidence needed for a lifetime of greater depths of new experiences? The answer is an emphatic YES to both. Ms. Marino has managed to perfectly capture the essence of the parent/child relationship and the great paradox at the heart of that relationship. And that is, in order to be a really effective parent, the job is to prepare the young one for a day when you are superfluous. Little Blue will always need Papa Whale’s love and guidance, but at a young age, the small mammal is slowly being given the tools needed to navigate LIFE in the deep on his own! She has a beautiful reassuring message for both parent and child as they navigate life together, “If you listen closely, you will always hear my song.”
Ms. Marino’s use of color is magic. Her greens mimic the clarity of life in the upper reaches of the ocean and as the depth increases for Little Blue and Papa, the blue green morphs to an inky blue that is barely transparent – except for SOUND! And her picture of the whales’ rise to the surface and “sounding” into a pinkish yellow light is beautifully done. It is a great match of art and narrative!
Ah, life lessons! Ms. Marino has written a book with a beautiful message for man AND mammal! Take the plunge and dive in with your young reader along with Papa Whale and Little Blue. It’s a great ride that this picture book starts, and you will continue with your child for a lifetime of deep depth diving – together! And Mom, I still can hear your song!