The Whales

10May10

Written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant

The Whales is the first Cynthia Rylant picture book that I encountered where Rylant also worked as the illustrator. Rylant portrays a variety of different kinds of whales species, including blue, humpback, beluga, sperm, narwhal, and fin whales. The media used in this piece appears to be acrylic paint and mixed technique between paint brushes and sponges. Rylant chooses bright colors in and an impressionist approach to depicting whales and their secret world under the sea. After having read a selection of Rylant’s works across literary genres, it was a much appreciated experience to get to fully encounter Rylant -the artist- in her entirety.

In the text of the piece, Rylant explains the inner-most thoughts of the ocean’s great giants. Some of these thoughts include friends, family, supper, where to go, and how deep are the oceans. Rylant’s poetic sentimentality so typical of her writing styling is not spared even on this book about whales. As she describes a mother whale gently pushing her newborn towards the surface, the baby is describe as gasping “at the loveliness of living.” The text itself is a poem in which Rylant compares whales in the ocean to birds in the sky: “swimming like birds rolling in the underneath sky” , “floating like feathers in the deep blue green” and “floating like feathers in a sky.”

I made a subtle, yet strong connection between The Whales and another story by Cynthia Rylant called All I See and a character named Gregory. His love for painting whales (“And at the end of the day, Charlie finally asked Gregory why he painted only whales. Gregory’s face opened up into an enormous smile. He looked out across the water and he said, ‘It is all I see.’ He smiled for a long time.”) is an extension of Rylant’s own love for whales (and further, painting whales as she is doing just that in this piece!) The connection between Gregory’s explanation of this love of whales seems to be explained in the following passage from The Whales:

  • “And whales do not know, as they rise u for a big breath of air, that someone is standing on a shore and his heart is filling up. Filling up and ready to burst. Whales do not know how they change people, how they makes them better, how they makes them kind.”

Reading this passage, I could see Gregory standing on the shore of the whale-less lake, seeing these creatures only through his imagination and capturing them on this canvas. I think Gregory, and likely Rylant herself, must have experienced the euphoric moment described here as being changed by the sight of a whale’s majestic presence.

Rylant compares whales to “angels appearing in the sky” in that they are “proof of God.” In interpreting these words, I feel that Rylant is expressing the her feelings about whales’ ability to be simply awe-striking in their mere presence, and the faith required to trust that whales are under the surface, even if we might not see them.

I remember being a little girl and my dad taking me on a Whale Watching trip. Even though no whales were spotted that day, but I remember being okay with that. I thought the whales must be really busy, or maybe they were just shy. It was just a neat experience to just watch for the whales, knowing they were somewhere out there. I can see why Rylant is so captivated by these marvelous, mysterious creatures.

The Whales is the first Cynthia Rylant picture book that I encountered where Rylant also worked as the illustrator. Rylant portrays a variety of different kinds of whales species, including blue, humpback, beluga, sperm, narwhal, and fin whales. The media used in this piece appears to be acrylic paint and mixed technique between paint brushes and sponges. Rylant chooses bright colors in and an impressionist approach to depicting whales and their secret world under the sea. After having read a selection of Rylant’s works across literary genres, it was a much appreciated experience to get to fully encounter Rylant -the artist- in her entirety.

In the text of the piece, Rylant explains the inner-most thoughts of the ocean’s great giants. Some of these thoughts include friends, family, supper, where to go, and how deep are the oceans. Rylant’s poetic sentimentality so typical of her writing styling is not spared even on this book about whales. As she describes a mother whale gently pushing her newborn towards the surface, the baby is describe as gasping “at the loveliness of living.” The text itself is a poem in which Rylant compares whales in the ocean to birds in the sky: “swimming like birds rolling in the underneath sky” , “floating like feathers in the deep blue green” and “floating like feathers in a sky.”

I made a subtle, yet strong connection between All I See and another story by Cynthia Rylant called The Whales. I felt like Gregory’s love for painting whales (“And at the end of the day, Charlie finally asked Gregory why he painted only whales. Gregory’s face opened up into an enormous smile. He looked out across the water and he said, ‘It is all I see.’ He smiled for a long time.”) is an extension of Rylant’s own love for whales (and further, painting whales as she is doing just that in this piece!) The connection between Gregory’s explanation for this love of whales seems to be explained in the following passage from The Whales:
“And whales do not know, as they rise u for a big breath of air, that someone is standing on a shore and his heart is filling up. Filling up and ready to burst. Whales do not know how they change people, how they makes them better, how they makes them kind.”
Reading this passage, I could see Gregory standing on the shore of the whale-less lake, seeing these creatures only through his imagination and capturing them on this canvas. I think Gregory, and likely Rylant herself, must have experienced the euphoric moment described here as being changed by the sight of a whale’s majestic presence.

Rylant compares whales to “angels appearing in the sky” in that they are “proof of God.” In interpreting these words, I feel that Rylant is expressing the her feelings about whales’ ability to be simply awe-striking in their mere presence, and the faith required to trust that whales are under the surface, even if we might not see them. I remember being a little girl and my dad taking me on a Whale Watching trip. Even though no whales were spotted that day, but I remember being okay with that. I thought the whales must be really busy, or maybe they were just shy. It was just a neat experience to just watch for the whales, knowing they were somewhere out there. I can see why Rylant is so captivated by this marvelous, mysterious creatures.

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