The Longest Whale Song ISBN: 9780385618151
Published by Doubleday Childrens, 2010
Ella has rather more problems than most children ever have to encounter. Her mum has married Jack, a fellow teacher, whom Ella dislikes intensely, her real dad has nothing to do with her except for presents at Christmas, she has had to move house away from her best friend; to top it all, mum is expecting a baby, another interloper to disturb her heretofore very happy and close relationship with her mum. But when mum goes into hospital to have the baby, the real problem begins. Mum has eclampsia, and goes into a coma. The doctors don't seem sure that she will ever come out of it, and Ella and Jack are equally bereft and frightened. Furthermore, the baby, Sam or Samson (because he's strong) must be cared for, and neither Ella nor Jack knows much about that. Very gradually their relationship strengthens as they must work with each other, but it is a long haul, and Ella continues difficult. Jack is actually a very likeable and understanding man, but it takes Ella a very long time to accept this and him. Their steep learning curve in looking after Sam, Ella's strong need for her mum and their mutual love for her help, as does Ella's growing understanding of Jack's strength in comparison with her real dad who is content to be a distant part of her life. The best friend proves not much help, and Ella must come to terms with that as well as everything else. A project about whales helps Ella by giving her a major interest, and she comes to the conclusion that Mum's hearing the song of the whales might help bring her out of the coma. Mum does wake up at the end of the story, but her recovery will be a long one. The four of them will become a true family, with all its irritations and difficulties. This is a stunningly good novel, well written, completely realistic and life-affirming. There is even a nice little twist at the end!