#967 – Abigail the Whale by Davide Cali and Sonja Bougaeva

abigail-whale-cover Abigail the Whale
Written by Davide Cali
Translated by Karen Li
Illustrated by Sonja Bougaeva
Owlkids Books  9/15/2016
32 pages    Ages 6—9

“Abigail dreads swimming lessons. Every time she dives into the pool, she makes a big splash, and all the girls in her class shout: “Abigail’s a whale!” Abigail can see that she is larger than the other girls. She feels huge, heavy, and out of place.

“Abigail’s swimming teacher takes her aside and points out: we can change how we see ourselves. He offers a creative visualization technique she can use to feel bolder, more confident, and more accepting of herself.” [PUBLISHER WEBSITE]

Abigail swims every Wednesday. Every Wednesday she quietly slips in, tries to miss the cold water splashing from the showers, and slips into the pool area to join line #7, always last in line. But none of that helps. Whenever Abigail dives into the pool, the other girls taunt her.

abigailthewhale_spread-3_screenrgb“Abigail is a Whale!”

After one swimming class, Abigail stays back to talk with the swimming instructor. Abigail tells him she is “too big and heavy.” The teacher replies.

“We are what we think. If you want to swim well, you have to think light. So, if you want to feel light, think light!”

Soon after, Abigail tries her instructor’s advice. It is dark on the way home, to stop being scared Abigail imagines she is a GIANT. In gym class, she thinks of kangaroos and jumps higher. When she needs a shot, she thinks of a statue and the needle does not hurt. While walking in the hall at school, Abigail thinks of the shining sun and Elliot smiles at her for the first time. (Though in the illustrations Elliot is not smiling). Knowing that the swim instructor’s advice works, Abigail confidently enters the next swim class.
elliott2Ready to make her dive, Abigail thinks of a rocket and dives into the pool without a splash. She then thinks of other things—kayak, surfboard, submarine, and speedboat—and swims each stroke nicely. No one calls her a whale, but when she does emerge from the water, Betty dares her to jump from the highest dive, “if you’re such a good swimmer now.”

Abigail takes the dare, and thinks not of the lightest thing she can, but of the heaviest. She thinks whale . . . no, “SUPER WHALE!” The illustration shows the result: a smiling swim instructor and two girls laughing, while Betty is off to the side, drenched from the water Abigail’s Super Whale sent her way.
light-strokesAbigail the Whale is a story about bullying and self-esteem. I don’t understand why the coach never addresses the other girls or their bullying. He simply stands there looking at Abigail as she walks back into line, head down. Considering the instructor is a man of girth, one would think he would say something. In the end, the bullies actually get away with their nasty words simply because it is never addressed.

Abigail learning mindfulness—to make herself feel better—is great, but her real problem remains:  she is overweight and simply thinking slim is not going to change this. I do like the exercise in thinking mindfully, as it keeps one centered and living each day fully aware and thus fully alive. It is also a lesson in creative problem solving, which works great for Abigail.

The ending has a nice twist, with the one remaining bully getting a face full of water by the one she torments. Yet, this ending seems forced and not complete. Abigail thinking of herself as a “super whale” only confirms the bullies’ taunts. (Maybe this is the joke.) There must have been a better way to end this story. Regardless, Abigail the Whale is a funny story and kids will like this humor. Add in less thinking and more doing—about the bully students—and maybe Abigail is a Whale would justify the taunting title.

ABIGAIL THE WHALE. Text copyright © 2016 by Davide Cali. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Sonja Bougaeva. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Owlkids Books, Berkeley, CA.

AmazonIndie Books—Owlkids Books

Find Abigail the Whale on Goodreads HERE.

Davide Cali:  http://www.davidecali.com/
Follow on Twitter          #DavideCali

Sonja Bougaeva:  http://www.sonja-bougaeva.de/
Follow on Twitter          #SonjaBougaeva

Owlkids Books:  http://www.owlkids.com/          https://us.owlkids.com/
Follow on Twitter            @owlkids

Owlkids Books is a division of Bayard.

Originally published in France by Éditions Sarbacane © 2009, Marlène Baleine

Reprinted with permission from ABIGAIL THE WHALE © 2009 by Davide Cali, © 2016 Owlkids Books, an imprint of Bayard, Illustrations © 2009 by Sonja Bougaeva.

Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Abigail the Whale
Written by Davide Cali
Translated by Karen Li
Illustrated by Sonja Bougaeva
Owlkids Books 9/15/2016



8 thoughts on “#967 – Abigail the Whale by Davide Cali and Sonja Bougaeva

  1. I agree the topic is timely and it’s interesting the coach doesn’t address the snarky comments. What I love about this tale (pardon the pun) is the message(s): 1. Building self confidence is a journey, not a event. 2. Thinking athletically / scientifically instead of internally / emotionally to resolve a problem/ 3. The ability to thoughtfully handle ugly situations in a positive way (focusing on improving her abilities, not her figure). 4. Adults can’t always be present. Learning how to cope with adversity is a life skill that should have it’s splash the mean girl in the face moments every now and then. Thank you for your insights and introducing a new book to us!


  2. The story titled startled me at first. I knew exactly what it meant but didn’t know what to think about the title. I absolutely loved the story. This is an excellent book about bullying. Glad I stopped by.


    • I agree about the title. When I first looked at this I was worried I would not want to put this on KLR. But the girl is spunky and bullies are not going to get to her now that she is swimming without fear. Still, there had to be a better title.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I reblogged this on my site as I think it is a very in book at the moment. Bullying is such a hot topic that parents and children need all the help they can get and often changing the way we look at a problem can help.


    • Thanks for the reblog. The subject of bullies is a very hot topic. Where I live, there have been warnings about a group of clowns, yep clowns, threatening a middle school to the point of the school taking safety measures. The clown shown was definitely an adult. Strange.


  4. Pingback: #967 – Abigail the Whale by Davide Cali and Sonja Bougaeva — Kid Lit Reviews | Mudpile Wood

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