Barroux is no stranger to creating sensitive stories that touch upon the global, environmental problems and this sweet friendship story between a lighthouse-keeper and a whale sails similar seas. Our picturebook opens to reveal a calm ocean where we find Jonas, upon his red and white sailboat, enjoying the smell of the wind and the gentle rolling of the waves. With the turning of a page, a violent storm suddenly picks up and Jonas finds himself tossed from his boat; stranded in dark, choppy seas. Fortunately, a huge, kindly-looking whale saves the day by securing Jonas and his boat safely atop its grey head. With a beautiful friendship struck, it becomes Jonas’ turn to do the saving when Blue goes missing. Eventually, the lighthouse keeper finds his friend on the ocean floor, anchored by sadness and bad health. Upon examination, Jonas finds that Blue has inadvertently swallowed hundreds of plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish. In mirroring his namesake, Jonas enters the whale’s belly and dutifully removes all the waste. Safe and secure on his boat once more and with a pile of rubbish, Jonas schools his companion on the difference between jellyfish and plastic bags. Together, as they head back to the lighthouse, they celebrate life, freedom and the essentiality of clean oceans.
As with all of Barroux’s work, this is a story that may seem simple on the surface but invites richer discussion if you should choose to plumb its depths. Each double-page spread plays with size and space well, using Blue’s huge form to humorous effect. From a visual perspective, I particularly enjoyed the whale’s celebratory leap over Jonas’ little boat and the lighthouse man’s adventure into the whale’s tummy. Using pen and watercolour, Barroux’s landscapes – both above and beneath the sea – are gently engaging with light, choppy clouds complementing Blue’s presence throughout. The simple character design makes it charming and easy to return to for younger readers as does the sparsity of the text: the story could almost be told without any words. Finally, keen-eyed readers will enjoy spotting the repeated appearance of a little sea-bird who watches on with concern and interest.
A sweet, ecocritical picturebook that invites consideration and reflection. A brief message from the author at the back offers advice to readers on making positive changes to save oceans and the lives they contain.