Review: Setsuko and the Song of the Sea

Written by Fiona Barker
Illustrated by Howard Gray
Published by Tiny Tree Children’s Books on 22nd April

I was browsing through the books on offer from my go-to independent bookshop when I saw this gorgeous offering was available slightly earlier than publication date so, of course, I couldn’t resist buying it.

Setsuko loves swimming in both the shallows and depths of the sea. One day, she meets an enormous whale who is looking for his friends and fearful that he may be the last whale. Setsuko offers to be his friend and together they share their love of the sea. When it is time for the whale to leave and continue his search for his friends, Setsuko gives him hope and, in return, he gifts her a song of the sea, a song which empowers her to remind others of the majesty of the sea.

This is a heartachingly stunning story encapsulating the beauty of our oceans and the harm that is being caused through plastic pollution. The thought-provoking illustrations tell their own story as plastic bags, crates and bottles hide in plain sight amongst the coral reef and fish. Plastic bags mimic jellyfish, and bottles ‘swim’ alongside fish. The notion that such a magnificent creature as a whale needs to seek a safe place in his own home, free from the harm caused by humans, is incredibly moving.

There is also a message of hope conveyed within the beautiful words and breath-taking illustrations: one voice can make a difference, can make others listen and can help conserve the beauty and wonder of the oceans.

Setsuko and the Song of the Sea is a story of an unlikely friendship; a story which is both poignant and hopeful; and, a story conveying a heartfelt message about the importance of looking after the environment. Little voices can make a difference to big issues, and I love the sense of hope and empowerment this encourages. A perfect message for little people, and older ones alike.

10% of the net profits from the sale of each book will go to the Marine Conservation Society, the UK charity working for seas full of life.

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