Our district adopted Open Court for its language arts curriculum years ago (and, because of California’s budgetary woes, will continue using it for some time to come.) One of our units is By the Sea, and lucky for me, one of the big book’s selections I’ve had the joy to read aloud is Humphrey the Lost Whale by Wendy Tokuda and Richard Hall, with illustrations by Hanako Wakiyama.
Lucky for you, the book’s still found in paperback and hardback in a variety of places–mostly used.
This true story covers Humphrey’s diversion from his pod’s southern journey into the San Francisco Bay. From there, Humphrey made his way up the Sacramento River into the delta. He was definitely lost and needed help.
My classes relate to Humphrey’s plight. Some have already experienced being lost themselves, and understand the scariness of the situation. Although a whale is a large creature, they identify with Humphrey, view him as another child, and are very sympathetic and concerned.
Human scientists work to save Humphrey and turn him around before he grounds himself in the delta. Banging pipes, they do manage to reverse his direction, but face an additional challenge in getting him under the small bridge he managed to squeeze through earlier.
The children sit raptly as I read how the people work overnight to remove pilings and widen that tight space. And everyone’s excited that Humphrey makes it back into the San Francisco Bay unscathed.
In addition, you can hear (and see!) this book as a video. Reading Rainbow covered this book some years back and I found it online. Jane Pauley reads the story aloud, and does a wonderful job.
Humphrey the Lost Whale is a great story about human beings helping animals survive, and you can extend this with discussions about how people help the elephants and gorillas in Africa, and the California condor here. Plus, since we’d just visited the Santa Barbara Zoo with their group of condors, it was great tie-in. If you’re interested in more to explore with your children, try watching the bald eagle nest cam on Santa Catalina Island.
One of the crafts that we do earlier in the year is a whale, made of ovals. The children can cut a large oval for the body, two smaller ovals for the tail, and a smaller one yet for the eye. I also use another oval, cut in half, for the eyelid, to give the whale more personality. They glue the pieces on a sheet of 8 x 11.5″ paper, add a spout with blue crayon and ocean waves about him. Easy and fun, with not all that much prep.