The Whales was written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant. It was published by The Blue Sky Press in 1996.
I had never known that the illustrations on the inside front cover and endpapers were there as the start of the story. I took notice to that when opening Cynthia Rylant's The Whales, and believe she started this book with the inside front cover as well. There are pictures, which look as though they were painted by sponge, of the whales swimming through the sea. (After reading the text, I saw that on the back end paper it explains that all of the illustrations throughout the book have been painted with acrylic paint, using natural sea sponges.) The mix of light and dark blue, as well as the white, allows the reader to envision the whales in their natural environment, and to get ready to read about these magnificent creatures. The illustrations throughout didn't disappoint. I was worried when choosing this book because I have not cared for her illustrations other books I have read, but I did enjoy these. The second opening has a beautiful mix of colors on a black background. The curve in the lines allows a feeling a serenity and made me think of the ocean waves and the quiet it brings to you when you just sit and watch the waves come in. Within the rest of the book, the background on most of the pages had a bold color, with the bright illustrations of the whales and their surroundings. They are full bleed pictures, allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves into the scene and feel the presence of the whale that is pictured.
As I read the book, I felt as though it was a metaphor for people. It starts off, "In the blackness of the Black Sea, the whales are thinking today. Thinking of those things that matter most to them: friends, family, supper. A song they used to know." This makes me feel as though she is drawing a comparison between the whales and people, as we are always thinking about what is important to us, or what is happening in our lives. Further into the book, she states, "The blues are humble. The largest life God ever made is a blue whale. Yet blues are neither pushy or boastful...." I feel as though she is describing different types of people through her description of whales. She hints to the changes we go through when writing about the humpback whale -- "Each humpback has a little song to sing, one all his own, and as he grows older and changes, so does the song," -- and acknowledges our triumph over weaknesses or disabilities -- "But a rose is lost on them, for they haven't any sense of smell. No matter. They love songs and touching and can court without flowers."
Others might not agree with my interpretation of The Whales, but that is how I read the book. I couldn't help but think about memories of my own or certain people as I read different parts of the book. If you decide to read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.