"Drink in the beauty and wonder at the meaning of what you see."
~ Rachel Carson
The paintbrushes of Jessica Lanan created stunning watercolor and gouache paintings and illustrated the wordless adventure of The Fisherman and the Whale. The images are so striking that you can imagine this dramatic and heartwarming story on a big screen. It's a compelling tale that holds both the paradoxical relationship between humans and animals along with beauty and a happy ending. You will cheer for the fisherman's son, the true hero, who stirred his Father into action.
The deeper message is complicated. In this illustration we see the two humans from the whale's eye and the whale from the fisherman's eye. These illustrations seem to say: "Can we count on each other?"
Living in an interdependent web forces us to make choices that may be better in the moment for humans, but not for animals. Like the book, Silent Spring, by pioneer environmentalist Rachel Carson, Lanan's story is cautionary. Carson made us aware about the effects of pesticides. Lanan makes us aware of a non-selective fishing method called purse seine fishing. Purse seining uses a net that captures everything that it surrounds, including protected species.
After reading The Fisherman and the Whale, I was encouraged to learn more about this fishing practice. The book's Afterword led me to the International Whale Commission where you can read about entanglement.
"Research suggests that over 300,000 whales and dolphins die annually due to entanglement in fishing gear, and others are also trapped in marine debris. This can have a devastating, long-term conservation impact on those populations which are already threatened, in some cases critically."
Humans who try to help entangled animals are also threatened. It is extremely dangerous to get in the water and free a powerful animal.
Prior to reading this book, I had the opportunity to hear and as Rachel Carson wrote,"drink in the beauty", of majestic Humpback whales off coast of Massachusetts. This singular, unforgettable experience reminded me of our close connection. We swim in the same ocean and are affected by the same storms and temperature changes. We are undeniably connected.
After my whale watching experience and reading this book, I wanted to be more diligent about my own practices. First, and probably the easiest way for any of us, is to reduce our use of plastics. It's a small step but, I have been more consistent about using a reusuable water bottle. Sharing this book is another step.
Please share this book with someone else, child or adult. Maybe they will be inspired to ask themselves how they can be kinder to our shared planet. Let's take one more step together!
Here are other pictures from The Fisherman and the Whale. You can find it at your local library or an independent bookstore.