A WHALE OF A MISTAKE by Ioana Hobai (Page Street Kids, 2020) is a picture book about how anxiety can inflate a mistake to colossal proportions. The story gently conveys how to find perspective and regain control. The protagonist makes a mistake which grows into a whale that swallows the protagonist and takes it out to sea. Along this wild ride, the protagonist feels trapped, powerless, and scared, but through observation and self-reflection, learns and grows, and eventually becomes brave enough to move on.
Hobai cleverly uses the whale, something concrete that young children can comprehend, as a metaphor for abstract, hard to pin-point emotions of guilt, anxiety and self-doubt. The watercolor illustrations bring the whale metaphor to life, and enhances the emotions through tumultuous swirls and stormy washes. The color story moves from dark bruise-like colors in the beginning towards light, bright and cheerful colors towards the end, reinforcing the emotional journey. A WHALE OF A MISTAKE is written in simple language, making it easily accessible to young readers, yet the content is universal which makes this a great conversation starter for readers of any age regarding regret and self-reflection.
A WHALE OF A MISTAKE deals with universal emotions and themes. By writing the book in the second person, removing the need for gender specific pronouns, and addressing the reader directly, Hobai makes this a book with which all readers can identify.