Thursday, April 23, 2009

Review :Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Janet Halfmann

The narwhal is a small whale that spends the summer in the high arctic coasts of Canada and Greenland. Before these inlets and bays freeze solid, the narwhal heads out to sea and spends the winter in the drifting ice of Baffin Bay and Davis strait between northeast Canada and Greenland. Narwhals travel in pods and eat fish for sustenance. Narwhals are considered adults at about twelve years of age.The most interesting physical feature of the narwhal is the nine foot long spiral tooth that sticks out from the upper jaw. This gives the narwhal the appearance of having a unicorn's horn. The females rarely have this tooth. Another interesting feature of these whales is the fact that they have no dorsal fin so it makes it very easy for them to dive under the ice as they search for food.

In this story, it is July and the Inuit children are very excited to see hundreds of narwhals enter the bay. Some of the adult male narwhals use their tooth to joust with other males in the age old game of king of the sea. One of the natural enemies of the narwhal is the killer whale. As the killer whales cruise the bay, the narwhals crowd together in the shadows staying as still as possible. With their mottled backs and white underbellies, the killer whales mistake them for floating pieces of ice and leave them alone. When the bay starts to freeze over due to an early winter storm, the narwhals find themselves trapped under the ice. They dive and dive for several days, finally finding a narrow crack of water to get them out of the bay. It's a good thing because some hungry polar bears were waiting on the ice for the narwhals to surface for air.

When the narwhals reach their winter home, even though the temperatures are very, very cold and there is no sushine in the long polar night, the narwhals are kept warm by the thick layer of blubber they carry. No killer whales can bother them here as the killer whale has a large dorsal fin that prevents them from swimming in the drifting ice packs. There are lots of fish for the narwhal to live on deep below the surface. In the summer, the narwhal will instinctively repeat the migration cycle all over again.

I had no idea there was such a whale as this. Even though this book is geared for 4-8 year olds, I found the scientific facts most intriguing. The colors and illustrations by Stephen James Petruccio are beautifully done as if in water colors to give the feel of the sea. Pictures are large and the story is simply written for easy comprehension. The story itself is very entertaining while still being educational. At the back of the book there is a glossary of terms and some scientific facts about the narwhal. In this section is a most interesting fact about the spiral tooth. A team of scientists headed by a dentist discovered that the narwhal's tooth is very sensitive, with millions of nerve endings exposed to the cold. The theory is the tooth is telling the narwhal when the water is about to freeze. There are many more fascinating facts on this last page.

This book is published by Soundprints Publishing and their motto is "where children discover". They have an absolutely wonderful collection of informative books woven around fictional stories to help youngsters learn in a fun way. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea is part of their Smithsonian Oceanic Collection.

About the author: Janet Halfmann has been writing children's books for more than 20 years. A few months ago I had the privilege of reviewing Little Skink's Tail by Janet. Little Skinks Tail is one of the most entertaining of children's stories and has won numerous awards. Review and more author info can be read here. Thank you Janet for sending me this wonderful book. I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend the book to help children discover the world of nature around them. 4****


  1. This book sounds adorable! I've never heard of that whale either. I learned so much from my kids' nature books and it was always more fun that way. The illustrations are always better too. Great review!

  2. Kaye, it looks and sounds like a beautiful book! Nice review.

  3. Lovely review, I absolutely adore books like this!

  4. You've won an award ! :)

  5. Kaye, thank you so much for your wonderful review of my book, Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea. Just like you and other readers, I learn so much in writing these books! Happy Reading!


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