Book review of I Lived Inside a Whale by Xin Li


It’s rare to experience the type of connection to a character that I had with Emma in I Lived Inside a Whale. I Lived Inside a Whale opens on the chaos of a party where everyone is having a blast, except for our irritated little narrator. Emma just wants a quiet spot to read, so she packs up and moves into the mouth of a whale (a reimagined space inside her bedroom). Her calm new home is the perfect place for reading—that is, until an interloper in the form of an excitable little boy slides in on a skateboard, and Emma’s solitude takes an unexpected turn. Written and illustrated by Xin Li, I Lived Inside a Whale is a touching and beautiful tale of finding refuge in stories, discovering unlikely allies and sharing one’s voice with the world.

Li’s evocative watercolor and pencil artwork echoes and expands upon Emma’s emotions. Clogged city streets, dour rain and constant noise reflect Emma’s feelings of needing to escape. An abundance of little details (stuffed animals, a warm reading light, a cup of tea, a perfect amount of books in disarray) makes her whale home enviably cozy. As Emma begins to share with others the wondrous stories and worlds inside her head, Li’s art becomes broadly imaginative: welcoming and expressive, it feels joyfully created and makes one happy. Little eyes will have fun whale-spotting while following along. A few classic storytime characters—such as those from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—also make delightful cameos.

Li narrates with the matter-of-fact voice of a bookish little girl who takes her alone time very seriously. The first-person perspective has the advantage of letting one directly feel Emma’s exasperation, her carefulness and orderliness, and finally, her bliss when storytelling. I Lived Inside a Whale has a moment for every reader, making it perfect for storytime or bedtime or any time in between. We could all use a little vacation these days, and I Lived Inside a Whale is a great escape, no matter your age.

Read original article here.

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