Wendell the Narwhal, a picture book by Emily Dove, centers on an adorable little narwhal who just wants to make music. He loves the music of the sea, but he has one little problem: all the other creatures around him can make beautiful sounds, but he can only manage “wobbles”, “swishes” and “boings”. What is a poor narwhal do to? The story that Emily Dove creates from there is a wonderfully readable and shareable picture book that will have you and the children you read it with making silly sea-music noises.
I used this picture book in one of my Sunday Storytimes, and it was a real delight. The illustrations are bright and vibrant, and Wendell’s little narwhal face is quite emotive. His love of music and his inability to contribute to the chorus of the ocean drives him into a jealous rage, and his bashful blushing turns into the scowling red of rage. This is a fun read-aloud that invites children’s participation. It can get as noisy as you want, with a series of “pop, woosh, wub and tweedly dee” noises, which can absolutely be the best part. Each page invites the readers to add their own voices to the shared music.
The story is not only fun to read aloud, it is delightfully bright and very well-designed to look at. The joy on the faces of the sea animals, from the clams to the puffer fish, the whale to the jellyfish, is palpable, and so is Wendell’s growing jealousy. When he finally finds out how he can contribute, the happiness felt by all is evident in each corner of the illustration. Who knew a simple black-line smile could convey so much happiness?
A great picture book is one that lets you peek into a new world all the while making you look at this one a little differently. This book is all about treasuring what makes you unique, even if that means it makes you a little different. Wendell can’t make the same noises the other animals can, but what he has to offer is something special, and embracing that individuality is what makes the whole group better.