An ingenious story about dealing with breakup and depression at a young age.
A little girl wakes up in the middle of the night and hears an unbearable whistle. The adults do not understand her condition and think that the noise she hears in her mind is just a kettle, or the neighbor’s whistles. A black whale that “appears” follows her in all her actions, but the whale is a symbolic and beautiful representation of the melancholy she feels in the week after her best friend leaving away. She is alone, she has no appetite and she moves away from her social environment. One day she decides not to run away from the whale anymore but “to look at him”. This is the moment of her recognition, realizing that she has a problem (“sense of loss”, depression”) that will not be solved if she ignores it. She looks at the whale, yells at him to get away, fights him and defeats him. Starting from this point her recovery is gently shown through the illustrations. Black has disappeared in favor of a few colors, to demonstrate that we have a gradual recovery. Finally, she goes back to playing with her friends, and the smile returns to her face.
According to experts, depression is on the rise not only among adults but also among young children. However, this subject is not often dealt with in children’s literature. In this book, depression experienced by a young girl is treated with great wisdom. The fact that she has no name echoes her sense of loss of identity. The illustrations mimic the drawings of a child and convey complex concepts through the threatening figure of the whale, who does not leave the heroine’s side and causes her to seclude herself. Sometimes the whale is drawn as a kind of suffocating rope to portray the child’s feelings of distress. And the happy ending is delicately presented, without “magic solutions”.
2018 | 46 pp. | Age 6-8 | English translation available | Rights Sold: Hebrew
“Not every day do you come across such an ingenious story. Orit Bergman (is) a writer and illustrator of divine grace.”
– Dr. Shai Rodin
Orit Bergman writes and illustrates children’s books, and teaches illustration at the prestigious Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design, Jerusalem. Her books are sold in France, China and Israel, and she frequently contributes illustrations to newspapers, magazines, advertisement campaigns, and exhibitions. Her work has won her many prizes and awards.