Book Review: Abigail the Whale by Davide Cali, Sonja Bougaeva

Abigail the Whale is a picturebook written by Davide Cali and illustrated by Sonja Bougaeva. Abigail dreads swimming lessons because every time she dives into the pool, she makes a big splash, and all the girls in her class shout: “Abigail’s a whale!” Abigail can see that she is larger than the other girls. She feels huge, heavy, and out of place. Abigail’s swimming teacher points out that we can change how we see ourselves. He shows her a way to feel bolder, more confident, and more accepting of herself. Abigail tries it out in challenging situations that week; walking home in the dark, eating her vegetables, trying to fall asleep. Next time she’s in swimming class, instead of feeling heavy, Abigail thinks sardine, eel, barracuda, shark! She starts to figure out how to draw on mindfulness, creative thinking, resilience, and positive self-esteem to embrace exactly who she is.
Abigail the Whale is a book that many of us can identify with. Abigail is a big girl, and hates the splash she makes when she jumps in the pool, and the way the kids tease her because of it. When her coach tells her that "We are what we think" she puts that idea to work everywhere she goes. I love that the illustrations show her imagination and changing perspectives about herself and the world around her. While positive and creative thinking cannot solve everything, it is a good, healthy way to start. i also like that she does not think herself thin when it comes time to dive again. instead she works with herself and thinks about being light and agile, like a rocket or shark. She does not get down on herself about her weight, nor does her coach, instead they work on tools to achieve what she wants to without worrying about other people, which is easier said than done. I liked that even when using her tools, and trying her best, Abigail was still nervous and worried, just like anyone would be in her place. 

 Abigail the Whale is a wonderful example of thinking and doing big things, without giving in to bullying and fear. Not only does it give a good example of creative thinking, it can also serve as a conversation or thought starter about self-confidence, bullying, empathy, and problem solving. A wonderful book to address this issues at home or in a classroom setting.

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