Jewish Values: Song of the Whales, The

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108 p.
In this small story, dedicated to “those who are not afraid of small distortions of reality,” Michael doesn’t know it but his parents’ decision to move to Jerusalem will open up a magical world for him. The nine year old doesn’t like sports, TV, or video games so he isn’t very popular in school. His hobbies are collecting gemstones and old keys and building boats that “were less models of boats than ideas of boats.” His friends are old men who sell rough gems, collect junk, and repair old books. In Jerusalem, he discovers that his grandfather is a kindred spirit. As the story progresses, Michael’s imagination soars and he becomes a kind of sorcerer’s apprentice to Grandpa, who has the ability to draw Michael into his dreams. They travel about Jerusalem, sometimes in the real world and sometimes, through “slight distortions of reality” into other times, places, and lives. In the sea, they hear the singing of whales. People bring their dreams to them to be sweetened. Some of the dreams are scary, like the one where Michael and his parents are trapped in a restaurant where all of the diners are fish and sea creatures who are preparing to eat them! Under grandpa’s influence, Michael becomes more out-going and a sharp observer of human foibles. As grandpa’s death grows nearer, the dreams they share grow less adventurous and more like memories. Convinced that Michael has “the gift,” grandpa gives him the key that will allow him to become a dream master and then dies content. As in many children’s books, The Song of the Whales portrays a special bond between a boy and his grandfather. It is unusual, perhaps unique, in it celebration of imagination and in giving both characters enough of it to let them experience those “slight distortions of reality” that transcend the ordinary and take them into magical realms. Children have more imaginative powers than adults often realize and they will find in this small, limpidly written story an affirmation or perhaps an expansion of their own dreams.
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