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The Children's Bookshelf: I Lived Inside a Whale - February 11, 2024

I LIVED INSIDE A WHALE, written and illustrated with great insight and understanding by Xin Li, is a beautiful story about a little girl who loves to read but has a very difficult time finding a quiet place to do so.

There is a host of things standing in her way such as other children running around, playing horns and drums, as they spilled water, grabbed cupcakes, and laughed. She even has a “don’t disturb” sign on her chair. No one cared as she tried to simply read a book about whales.

And it doesn’t improve when our little reader goes home and opens the window. Her ears are bombarded with beeps and honks from angry traffic. She thinks she understands her problem. “My world was too loud…too busy…and filled with too much of everything, everywhere, all the time.”

She designs a boat, leaves her house for the water, finds a blue whale, and settles down in its roomy insides to read. However, a boy skateboards in and joins her---he is very noisy!

Eventually the girl makes a pact with him that promises that if he is quiet half of the day, so she can read, she will acknowledge him for the other half and talk with him. This works well for them both. She begins to experience how to enjoy all sorts of stories from Alice in Wonderland to Nordic Tales by telling them to the boy out loud. She even tells him stories she makes up herself!

I Lived Inside a Whale written and illustrated by Xin Li is a beautifully told story full of surprises and fantastic pictures as the girl learns how to spread the joy of storytelling out loud. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), 2024.

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

 Activity Questions for I Lived Inside a Whale

Younger Readers: Turn to the illustration that shows the little girl reading inside the blue whale before the boy appears. Find the following items: A TEAPOT, A MONKEY, A RABBIT, A FLASHLIGHT, LONG JOHN SILVER’S HAT, A JAR FULL OF BRUSHES AND PENCILS, A BASKET FULL OF BOOKS, A GIRAFFE READING A BOOK, A PICTURE OF A MUSHROOM and A FLAG WITH THE LETTER “E” ON IT. What do you think the letter “E” stands for?

Older Readers: The last illustration in this book suggests that the little girl has started a Book Club. What are the titles of the books the Book Club is reading? Which of these books have you read? What book are the giraffe and the bunny reading? What books could the little boy and the little girl be reading? Where is the blue whale in this picture? Start a list of books for your own Book Club and give your book club a name.   



Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.