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Hunting for Whales Review by Krystin Corneilson

Michael J. McHugh
Great Light Publications
422 S. Williams Ave.
Palatine, IL 60074

Did you know that commercial whaling was an important part of our country's heritage? Me neither! Most American history curricula that I've seen include information on such notable people and events as explorers Lewis and Clark (and their guide Sacajawea), the Louisiana Purchase, the Oregon Trail, Andrew Jackson, and Kit Carson, just to name a few. Hunting for Whales is a paperback novel written from the voice of a retired and reminiscing New England whaleman. As he describes his adventures on the high seas for a crowd gathered at the Whaler's Inn, the reader discovers that Jim Surrey's real story is one of living and sharing his Christian faith.

After a brief introduction of the whaling industry in the mid-1800s, the story opens in the now quiet community of New Bedford. Jim Surrey is meeting Timothy Dronner, an old friend and the one with whom his whaling adventures began nearly 60 years prior. Timothy stands up in the Whaler's Inn and boldly suggests that the other patrons in the diner need to listen to his former shipmate's tales of a time when their village was crowded with the people and sounds of a thriving whaling business.

Sailor Jim starts at the beginning, recounting when he met Timothy and how their futures melded together on Captain Flynn's ship. He explains what it was like to learn the ropes on a whaling vessel--from the different jobs that needed tending to the way they lived and ate and slept. He shares the thrills and fears of living on the sea, hunting the whales, and being away from home for so long. The secondary storyline, which turns out to be the one we can all relate to, is the path of his Christian walk and how his faith was challenged, strengthened, and shared.

Historical fiction like this richly complements history curricula and makes otherwise plain facts and timelines come alive. Hunting for Whales is aimed at ages 11-16, but I too enjoyed it. And I anticipate that my sons who are a bit younger will enthusiastically appreciate the content. This novel would also be appropriate for a Christian character or Bible study class, as assigned reading or read-aloud material, or simply for pleasure reading.

Hunting for Whales is an interesting, easy-to-read novel that has purpose. Not only will the reader come away with a fresh appreciation for American history, but he or she will see the impact of Christian heroes on our country from its start. True heroes have real challenges and lean on God's strength to succeed. Through it all, they praise God. What a lesson to remember!

Even though the author attempted to explain whaling and nautical terms, a glossary would have been helpful for quick reference. In addition to the bibliography in the back of the book, Hunting for Whales opens with a nod to R. M. Ballantyne's Fighting the Whales, giving readers a whole list of ideas for other books to read.

As we've studied early 18 th century American history this year, my boys have loved the stories of real people living real adventures. I hadn't even considered our nautical legacy until I found this gem of a book. It's easy to read as either an assignment or a read-aloud, and it's packed with interesting challenges--both physical and spiritual. It will naturally lead into school and family discussions. We are going to integrate it into our curriculum and see if it leads us to other unplanned and uncharted homeschool waters!

Product review by Krystin Corneilson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2011