A Whale in Paris
It’s 1944, and Chantal Duprey lives in German-occupied Paris along the Seine. Her father, a fishmonger named Henri, has not had any luck catching the salmon they need to survive during the ever-increasing food shortages. One night, while Chantel is playing her ukulele by the water, she hears strange noises coming from the river. She discovers a young whale has lost its way, and it seems to connect with Chantal immediately. It’s not a secret she can keep quiet, and when the Parisians and later the German guards find “Franklin” the whale, a mixture of wonder and survival-bred madness sweeps through the city. Chantel must get Franklin and herself to safety before it’s too late.
This story includes many characters with different backgrounds and attitudes. It delves into the workings of human nature, and teaches young readers valuable life lessons, such as not judging people prematurely and the importance of keeping promises. Another theme is overcoming one’s fears—Chantal, whose mother drowned years before, must face the threat of the water to save Franklin. There are both French and German phrases, which are handily translated in parentheses. The cover art and illustrations give a good sense of Chantal’s world—especially the map in the front which shows the Seine and its islands and bridges. It is an excellent introduction to WWII for elementary readers, being both an exciting and touching story.