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Review: Whalesong by Kate Gordon

November 27, 2022

About the Book:

“There is no now and no then, only in between and always Open the box. Come and see.” Aberdeen Knopwood wants to make a difference – to help save the planet and express the passion for the environment that burns underneath her skin. But how can a girl who is too scared to stand out actually do something meaningful? Aberdeen’s family has been woven into the fabric of Hobart for generations. When her journalist father gifts her an antique chronometer, it leads her to another girl who also knows and loves Hobart. But the Hobart this girl knows is very different to the one Aberdeen grew up in – a newer Hobart, where the stone buildings aren’t yet mellowed to soft golds, sea shanties echo from tall sailing ships, and men armed with harpoons hunt whales in the harbour. This girl knows something that Aberdeen is yet to discover: one person really can make a difference. CBCA Award-winning author Kate Gordon invites you to walk the cobbled streets of Hobart in the early 19th century, exploring our desire to change our world for the better, and the enduring legacy–both good and bad–of those who came before…

My thoughts:

This is exquisite. Aberdeen is a pretty normal child living in Tasmania. Her best friend is brave and strong and she idolises her, but her best friend has gone and Aberdeen is left alone. She doesn’t feel brave or strong on her own.

She does want to make a difference though.

She just doesn’t know how to do that without standing out and being seen.

Her father gives her an odd gift. A chronometer and that’s when strange things start to happen. A time shift allows Aberdeen to travel into the past, meeting a strange girl who is brave and strong and everything Aberdeen wishes she could be. Together they have a adventure that puts them in danger. To get back Aberdeen needs to discover something about herself. She will need to be brave. The whales have a song for her.

The Tasmanian history in this MG story is beautifully layered amongst the fantastical elements. The stories of the whales and the cruelties of man are woven and unwoven in this lovely tale of time travel and self discovery. The outcome is magical too. This is such a terrific read. Kate Gordon has a lyrical way of threading descriptions together that draw you – the reader – in and allow you to get lost in history along with Aberdeen. I very much recommend this story for all middle graders and their families too.

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