Less than halfway through The Longest Whale Song I suddenly had this thought. Maybe it doesn’t go without saying that the Mum in a coma will wake up and that everything will be fine? It’s obviously what we come to expect in fiction, particularly for children.
But wouldn’t Jacqueline Wilson be letting her readers down with such an ending? She goes through every hard topic she can find, in order to show her young readers that they are not alone. And we know that in real life the coma is just as likely to end badly as happily. And there is always that grey area in-between, where someone doesn’t die, but nor are they totally well again.
So, what would it be?
It’s a realistic set-up, with Ella’s Mum pregnant with a half-sibling, and then everything goes badly as her baby boy is born. From being just the two of them, Ella is now facing life with the stepdad she doesn’t like, plus a new baby brother she never asked for. And her beloved Mum can’t hear her.
No longer living where she used to, Ella is already seemingly losing her best friend. No one understands what she is going through. Everyone else has OK lives. Or do they?
Between them, Ella and her stepdad muddle through with night feeds and yucky nappies, and then they go to sit with her Mum in the hospital. Occasionally they manage to fit in work and school as well.
Ella needs something to focus on, and she puts all her energies into a whale project for her Mum. She draws pictures (well, she is a Jacqueline Wilson heroine) and struggles with the words, and she finds some whale music. Maybe it can wake her Mum up?
I was in such a hurry to get to the end that I almost missed Nick Sharratt’s wonderful illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. Luckily I went back and really saw them.