'Will There Be Whales There?' by Jackie Curtis is a delightful whale of a tale with a thoughtful message for young children aged between 3-7 years.
Beautifully illustrated by Christian Salmon, the book tells of young Jackie, a girl who through a process of self discovery realizes that whales and dolphins do not belong in a concrete pool, but in the vastness of the ocean.
Young Jackie sets out wanting a whale in her bathtub, then a paddling pool and finally a swimming pool. But the smart little girl figures out that these animals just don't fit. More importantly, Jackie realizes that keeping whales and dolphins confined, isn't what nature intended for them.
Curtis says the book was inspired by her own journey as a child:
I was inspired to write this book by the memory of one of my father's anecdotes about my early childhood. The difference between the Jackie in the book and my actual childhood is, when I was older and was offered the opportunity to attend a marine-based amusement park in the United States, that held captive marine mammals, I took it.
Thrilled by the "flashy show", Curtis said she fell in love with the orcas and dolphins, but left the show disturbed by these animals being kept in concrete pools. "I didn’t understand why I had such conflicting feelings," Curtis said, but "knowing what I know now, I would like children to understand those feelings if they do choose to go to such places."
Jackie Curtis: Will There Be Whales There? Illustrated by Christian Salmon
Curtis' book offers parents the chance to educate children early by delivering a positive and easily understood message about the importance of whale and dolphin protection. Indeed, the message serves as a timely reminder of the need for us to cherish and protect the natural world around us.
Digital Journal asked the author about the importance of choice for both parents and children. Often when children wish to see these magnificent animals, parents consider an aquarium visit first and their natural home -- the ocean, second.
JC: I think most if not all parents initial reaction is to want to please their children, however in a world where instant gratification is becoming far more the norm, we are disconnecting with the long term consequences of our actions and normalizing something that is not in any way a typical representation of a marine mammal.
As a result, we are also disconnecting from the very things we are claiming to love while neglecting to educate our children to be respectful of the needs of the objects of our desire. I also think there are considerations that parents forget while wanting to please.
I've often heard stories much like my own where as adults some of us who have been to see captive dolphins, beluga and orca remember having had mixed emotions that as children we didn’t understand completely.
Children naturally gravitate towards dolphins and many become passionate about their interest. I would like to see more children learning that the things we love we also need to respect and protect. That means encouraging more conservation of them in their natural environment, better protection of their habitat and making the idea that we can save a species by removing it from what naturally sustains it, less normal.
EMB: So I also understand that the book will be available in a Japanese version. Why Japanese?
JC: I spent the better half of a decade living in Japan and have a few friends there who are starting families or already have young children and I wanted to share this message with them and their children.
On a more practical level there are two reasons for the Japanese version. Firstly, there are an overwhelming number of facilities within Japan that hold captive marine mammals. In fact, I believe Japan is a country with the highest number of captive marine facilities.
When I came across this google map last year with all the Japanese facilities marked on it, you could hardly see the land for all the location markers. It was shocking.
Secondly, Japan has become one of the main suppliers of wild-caught dolphins and small whales sold to marine parks internationally. In some parts of the world we are seeing a decrease in the number of captive facilities but unfortunately this is not the case in Asia. As a main supplier of animals to Asia, it just seemed a natural choice to start with Japanese as an additional language to the English edition.
Curtis also told Digital Journal that a portion of the proceeds from Japanese book sales will go to help Japanese citizens. One recipient is Izumi Ishii, a former dolphin hunter who underwent a change of heart and turned his boat into a whale and dolphin watching vessel.
Mr. Ishii's transformation was so profound, that in 2002, he traveled to the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting held in Shimonoseki, Japan. Here, under public scrutiny, he announced his intention to cease hunting and urged his fellow dolphin hunters to do the same.
Mr. Ishii found little support in his home town of Futo, but earned global respect for speaking out against the dolphin killing. Just like young Jackie in Curtis' book, both of them experienced a metamorphosis and a changing awareness through self-discovery. More importantly, the book introduces the issue of captivity in an appealing manner that encourages children to think.
"In an increasingly complex age we need to give the younger generation the gift of recognizing the natural beauty all around them -- what better lesson can we offer to our children to start them on their way?" Curtis said in a press release.
'Will There Be Whales There?' is available for purchase through Xlibris.com/Bookstore.com within a few days and through Amazon.com in about 2-8 weeks. The book is published by Xlibris in two languages; English and Japanese (English edition ISBN 978-1-4797-4800-6, Japanese edition ISBN 978-1-4797-4798-6).
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