Lynne Kelly relies on her twenty-five years as a sign language interpreter for background to construct her middle grade novel featuring twelve-year-old tech genius Iris, who also happens to be deaf. Her book’s dedication “to everyone who’s ever felt alone” sets her premise while her first line foreshadows two who share that loneliness, “Until last summer I thought the only thing I had in common with that whale on the beach was a name.”
When Iris moves to a new school where she is the only deaf child in her class, the perception of fellow students and sometimes of teachers questions her mental ability. Little do they realize her aptitude with electronic repair. When she learns of Blue 55, a real whale who cannot speak to other whales, she relates to him and begins a plan to sing to him and then to find him though he is three thousand miles away. Interspersed in Iris’s first-person account of this adventure are short segments from Blue 55 that demonstrate the empathy between the huge animal and the girl as he tries unsuccessfully to communicate with his own species.
Her feisty grandmother, who has retreated into herself in grief over the death of her grandfather, comes out of her mourning to abet Iris in her undertaking of getting the song Iris has produced on the whale’s 55 hertz frequency to him. Her own healing comes as she carries Iris away with minimal information left for the parents about where they are headed.
This is a great read for those with hearing impairment or their friends and family members, but also for those who love seeing competent people who refused to be defined by a physical challenge.