Harvey the Great Lakes Whale
Harvey, the Great Lakes Whale truly is a whale of a tale. The back cover promises it is “educational and fun for kids of all ages” and it fulfills that promise brilliantly.
The story begins when the young whale, Harvey, rather than listening to his mother and staying away from the ships in the North Atlantic Ocean, decides to try and race one. Harvey ends up getting his fluke—his tail fin—this is an educational book so we learn about fish fins among other interesting facts—caught in the rudder of a ship. The ship is too fast and bad weather makes the water too rough for Harvey’s family to rescue him. Harvey soon finds himself being pulled by the ship through the St. Lawrence Seaway, then Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and finally Lake Superior. He passes through the many locks along the Great Lakes, and he meets many fish who try to help him without success; only when he reaches Lake Superior is he able to free himself, and then Harvey cannot get back through the Soo Locks to his family.
But Harvey’s adventures have only just begun. He soon meets many interesting characters in the Great Lakes—not only fish, but also Clyde the clam, and my favorite, Gertrude the gossiping seagull. Being young and playful, and not quite having learned his lesson from getting his fluke stuck in a rudder, Harvey enjoys surprising humans who cannot believe their eyes when they see a whale in Lake Superior. Harvey amazes the tourists on the glass bottom shipwreck tours in Munising Bay, and he even frightens an ice fisherman. Although he gets in trouble with the fish council for upsetting the humans, Harvey eventually comes to feel at home in Lake Superior.
Amid telling all of Harvey’s adventures, author William Nelson has inserted many details about the history of the Great Lakes. Each time Harvey meets a new kind of fish, a page is inserted describing the type of fish, including its Latin name, how much it weighs, its color, and some interesting facts—did you know carp actually came to North America from China, or that sturgeon can live for seventy-five years? These short descriptions of various fish will be educational to youngsters and serve as an early guidebook to future fisherman. Harvey also learns a lot about shipwrecks on the Great Lakes, including the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which he visits in its watery grave. The illustrations, by Emily Mauchmar, are not only charming pictures of Harvey and his friends, but they are also accurate portrayals of different kinds of fish, ranging from pike and trout to sturgeon and salmon, including whiskers and number of fins.
Harvey the Great Lakes Whale is a great book for all ages, either to be read aloud to young children, or for children ages eight or older to read by themselves. Adults will find it just as enjoyable, while they also learn a bit about the Great Lakes. I, for one, had no idea there were ten locks a ship would have to pass through to get into Lake Superior from the Atlantic Ocean. After reading the book, children will be more interested in the Great Lakes, and probably insist they go on a boat tour to try and spot Harvey.
The “About the Author” section at the end of the book states that William Nelson used to work for the correctional department and often drove prisoners from Munising to Harvey. On one such trip, a prisoner asked him what was that object out in the lake. From that moment, the tale of Harvey was born. Did William Nelson make up the story, or is Harvey the Whale really in Lake Superior? I don’t know the answer, but the photograph of the author on the back cover gives better proof of Harvey’s existence than any photographs I’ve seen of the Lochness monster.
I congratulate William Nelson on his first book. I hope he writes many more. I would enjoy another tale of Harvey’s adventures!
- Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., author of Iron Pioneers
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