Thursday, January 30, 2020

Review - Orcas of the Salish Sea

Orcas of the Salish Sea
by Mark Leiren-Young
Date: 2020
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Meet Onyx and the orcas of J pod, the world's most famous whales. Illustrated with stunning photos, this picture book introduces young readers to the orcas humans first fell in love with. The members of J pod live in the Salish Sea, off the coast of Washington and British Columbia. Moby Doll was the first orca ever displayed in captivity, Granny was the oldest orca known to humanity, and Scarlet was the orca humans fought to save.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This poorly titled non-fiction book for kids lacks focus and could be potentially confusing for some readers.

Orcas of the Salish Sea looks like it's supposed to be about the southern resident killer whales who live off the coast of British Columbia and Washington State. That's what one would logically assume from the title and from the synopsis. However, although it does have some information about these orcas, the book then loses the thread and goes on to talk about other orcas around the world.

Why is this a problem? Because the southern residents are a distinct group. They are fish-eating orcas, as opposed to another group that swims the local waters who eat other marine mammals. At one point in the book, the text states:

Because some types of orcas hunt other whales for food, orcas like Onyx used to be called killer whales.

While this is technically true, it's confusing to imply that orcas "like Onyx" were called killer whales because of their diets... because Onyx is part of the fish-eating group. I noticed this confusing lack of focus early on in the book, where a Bigg's killer whale was pictured hunting a porpoise. Bigg's killer whales are not part of the southern resident population, which was what the book was talking about at that point.

The diets of orcas around the world are explained, but only in the latter part of the book, at which point readers may have already made some incorrect inferences. I would expect better from a book written by an orca expert!

The photos are nice and the text is easy to read. But I'm not sure why the original focus--the southern resident orcas--wasn't kept throughout the book. Surely there are plenty of stories about these whales that could've been told without having to resort to general orca information.

Thank you to NetGalley and Orca Book Publishers for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

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