Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly – Book Review

  • Title: Song for a Whale
  • Author: Lynne Kelly
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • Release Date: February 5, 2019


Iris is tech-savvy and curious, deaf and lonely. While she loves to fix radios, she struggles to find her place and make friends in a world where she only knows a handful of people like her. Then, Iris learns about Blue 55, a whale that sings songs in a different frequency from other whales. Her interest in Blue 55 takes her on a surprising adventure to communicate with the whale, leading to her own growth, new friendships, and a new perspective on her world.

Song for a Whale is a touching adventure that will surely garner fans amongst middle grades readers. Author Lynne Kelly provides an intimate perspective into how Iris’s deafness affects her. Iris is smart, capable, and tenacious but certainly not perfect, which makes her character perfectly relatable. The connection between Iris and Blue 55 is captivating, but the chapters told from Blue 55’s perspective take away from his mysterious existence more than it adds to the narrative. Overall, Song for a Whale provides an important perspective about how people can be heard. Its message about inclusion adds to the case that the book merits space on every library and classroom shelf. It will encourage students to consider new points of view, empathize with others, and venture out and try new things.

Classroom Applications

  • Cross-curricular Study – Teach the novel in conjunction with a Science unit about ocean life, whales, acoustic biology, or radios.
  • Choice Read – Use the novel as part of a study about inclusivity and/or deaf culture and characters.
  • Project – If learning about oceans or sea life in Science class, assign the novel as part of a project assignment.

Nonfiction Connections: The list below outlines topics that will enrich your students’ understanding of the novel.

  • Whales
  • Ocean Life
  • Acoustic Biology
  • Deaf Culture/ASL
  • Radios
  • Sound Waves

Book Companions: The following are great books to pair with Song for a Whale. In parenthesis are the specific aspects students could explore when synthesizing across the texts.

  • Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (Character Connections, Themes)
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Character Connections, Science Content)
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell (Character Connections, Themes)


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