January 17, 2008
The Whale Scientists: Solving the Mystery of Whale Strandings
by Fran Hodgkins
Houghton Mifflin, 2007
64 pages, with color photographs
Another excellent offering in Houghton Miffin's Scientists in the Field series, The Whale Scientists explores theories about why whales beach themselves; not surprsingly, we humans figure into both the causes and the solutions. In fact, our changing relationship with these sea creatures provides the book's arc. Hodgkins begins with a history of industrial whaling and ends with the story of a successful (and labor-intensive) rescue of two pilot whales. Outfitted with satellite tags, they continued to provide scientific data even their release back into the ocean. The scientists in the book include a Smithsonian curator, a specialist in whale necropsies, and a Woods Hole expert on whale ears, who makes analogies to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
A Cybils longlist nominee in the middle-grade and young-adult nonfiction category, The Whale Scientists is particularly well-pitched for its age range, well-documented, and good reading for children in the fifth grade on up. Every Scientists in the Field title I've read so far can be appreciated by grown-ups, too. I'm certainly game for a whale watch now!