5th Grade and Up
12-year-old Iris has never let her deafness slow her down. A whiz at fixing electronics, she’s always felt at home in the world of wires and vacuum tubes.
School, on the other hand, isn’t quite as simple. Between her frustrating teacher Ms. Conn and her overly helpful classmate Nina, Iris can’t seem to catch a break.
But during science class, Iris learns about Blue 55—the loneliest whale in the world. Saddened by the animal’s inability to speak to other whales, Iris uses her tech skills to come up with a plan to communicate with Blue 55.
One small problem: the whale is swimming off the coast of Alaska, nearly 3,000 miles from her Texas home. But, nothing stops Iris, and with her Deaf grandmother by her side, she sets out on a road trip to meet the whale and make sure he’s finally heard.
The author of this story is an interpreter for the deaf, so she knows what she’s talking about. I learned about Deaf culture, what it’s like to be deaf and how hearing people interact with deaf people and the information broke my heart.
I was surprised by how deeply I empathize/care for Iris and how worked up I got over everything she goes through. I don’t know whether it’s because I empathize with any character with a difference/disability or that the story is just so well written that I couldn’t help but be on Iris’s side.
What really got under my skin was that Iris’s own father wouldn’t take the time to learn how to sign better so he could talk to his own daughter. Shouldn’t a parent do everything in their power to be able to communicate with their child? I think the reason this makes me so angry is because my parents have done so much to support me that the concept of a parent not helping their kid makes no sense to me.
This story, in my opinion, has two main ideas. The first idea is that you can’t put someone in a position that doesn’t work for them and expect them to thrive. Example: You can’t put a deaf kid in a school with no other deaf kids and only a sign language interpreter to talk to and expect them to be happy. The second main point is the importance of communication between others. You can’t expect a deaf person to always have a hearing aid or a cochlear implant or be able to read your lips. Both sides need to take the time to really listen to the other and understand what the other is saying.
Iris is determined, stubborn, intelligent and passionate. She relates with the whale’s inability to communicate with those around him because she goes through life not feeling heard. Her technological radio talk went over my head, but you can tell Iris knows what she’s doing.
There is so much more I would like to say about this story, but I am enabled to write all my thoughts out in a way that makes sense.
Read the Deafness and Sign Language section in the back of the book to learn more about Deaf culture.
On an ending note, click on the YouTube link below to be taken to a video about ‘Things Not to Say to a Deaf Person” (Some strong language):
This weeks’ Weird but True Fact about Whales
Blue whales are the loudest animals on Earth; their calls are as loud as a rocket launch.