The Secret Life of Whales by Charles Siebert, Chronicle Books, 2011, 112 pages.
Source: Won in a contest from Cracking the Cover and the publisher (thank you so much).
Summary (from Goodreads):
The Secret World of Whales takes readers deep into the history of human encounters with whales. In conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Charles Siebert illuminates the latest research on these gentle giants. Readers will discover scientific findings that suggest that the human brain and the whale brain are surprisingly similar. They will dive into stories from fiction and legend, as well as real-life tales of ships raised in the air on the back of a whale. With masterful storytelling and impressive photographs, this comprehensive book brings new light to the mysterious underwater world of whales.
This book was so timely for me as we had just come back from our vacation on Hornby Island (off the coast of BC), where, after years of going there, we saw a pod of Orcas swim past. It was so exciting for us and for our kids. When we returned, this book was in the mail and I hadn't even realized that I had won it. After our encounter with Orcas, my eight year old was especially interested in reading this book, so we read it together and loved it.
This is a different kind of book about whales, it is more about their culture and social history with humans than about what types of whales there are and where they live. The basics of whales are covered, but then there are anctidotes about interesting whale activity, such as how they are learning to take fish off of fishing lines in Alaska, and are teaching this to other whales around the world (one of my son's favourite stories).
Also covered is how humans are affecting whales, from finding them mystical beings, to hunting them, to whale watching tours, to noise pollution.
I found that I learned a lot by reading this book and that it really got me thinking - I knew whales were smart, but I did not understand the extent of their culture. This is a great book for kids who want to know more about whales as it is written in an engaging, friendly way, but it also a good book for doing research. My eight year old loved this book and never wanted me to stop reading and was enraptured while I read. This in not a dry book, but is full of colourful pictures and interesting stories combined with facts and research.