Here Come the Humpbacks!
by April Pulley Sayre, ill by Jamie Hogan
I love whales! When my husband, Randy, and I took a short trip to Boston a couple of years ago, a whale-watching excursion was the coolest thing we did!
April Pulley Sayre’s Here Come the Humpbacks! is a gorgeous book covering the annual migration of humpback whales. Not only is it incredibly informative, but it’s beautifully written, too. Here’s a snippet from the beginning:
A female humpback swims away to quiet shallows. Her blue-gray head, bumpy as a pickle, lifts and looks. It is February. She is expecting–something big, something soon. The time has come.
The fonts/typefaces organize the story. For babies and toddlers, you could just read the largest phrases, which also serve as subheadings for the different stages of the journey. “Here comes a humpback!” “Here breathes a humpback!” etc. Short, dynamic statements and art in deep blues and greens will enchant kids.
For preschool through second grade, you can read the main text, but probably not in one sitting. So those subheads will give you good stopping points. And there are interesting sidebar notes and endmatter to introduce in various readings, too.
This book shows kids not only the big picture of humpback whales’ cycle of childbirth and migration, but also the fine details that kids will be fascinated by (ok, grown-ups, too). Did you know that a mother humpback whale loses ten tons of weight from May to the next April, when she arrives at her feeding grounds?
I generally donate my review copies of books to schools I visit, but I confess I’ll be holding onto this one for a while longer yet, just to savor the words and art a little more:>)
Extension activities for Here Come the Humpbacks!: :
- Map it out. On a globe or a world map, trace the path of the humpback whales described in this book.
- Take a deep breath. Humpback whales usually come up for air every three to five minutes, though scientists estimate they can hold their breath up to 35 minutes! Make a breath-holding chart for your classroom, and record how long each kid can hold his or her breath. I made it to 40 seconds before I thought my lungs would burst.
- Music appreciation. Listen to some humpback whale songs. You can hear a brief example here at National Geographic or a much longer example here. It could be fun to listen to the longer one and brainstorm with your class what the various noises sound like: seagulls, children crying, cows, and creaking doors on scary houses are some of the sounds I “heard.” This could just be a fun listening activity or you could write a poem or story inspired by the song. Perhaps the kids could write a “translation,” an English version of what they think the whale is saying.
Jen at Perogies & Gyoza has the Nonfiction Monday roundup! Go learn something cool!
[review copy of Here Come the Humpbacks! provided by the publisher]