A 52-Hertz Whale

  • Interest Level: Grade 8 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 6

“It appears to be the only individual emitting a call at this frequency and hence, has been described as the world’s loneliest whale.”—Wikipedia

So here’s how it all starts: James, a high school freshman, is worried that the young humpback whale he tracks online has separated from its pod. So naturally he emails Darren, the twentysomething would-be filmmaker who volunteered in James’s special education program back in middle school. Of course, Darren is useless on the subject of whales, but he’s got nothing but time, given that the only girl he could ever love dumped him. And fetching lattes for his boss has him close to walking out on his movie dream and boomeranging right back to his childhood bedroom.

So why not reply to a random email from Whale Boy?

Predictably, this thread of emails leads to a lot of bizarre stuff, including a yeti suit, drug smuggling, widows, a major documentary filmmaking opportunity, first love, a graveyard, damaged echolocation, estranged siblings, restraining orders, choke holds, emergency dentistry…and then maybe ends with something like understanding.

See, it turns out that the thing that binds people together most is their fear that nothing binds them together at all.

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Interest Level Grade 8 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 6
Genre Young Adult
Copyright 2015
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Carolrhoda Lab ®
Language English
Number of Pages 200
Publication Date 2015-09-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS YAF058110, YAF058120, YAF058070
Dewey [Fic]
Dimensions 6 x 9
Lexile 940
ATOS Reading Level 6.6
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 178197
Accelerated Reader® Points 8.0
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, and Reviewed

Author: Bill Sommer

Bill Sommer holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writers Workshop and a bachelor's in jazz performance from the University of Miami. Born and raised in St. Louis, he now lives in Atlanta.

Author: Natalie Haney Tilghman

Natalie Tilghman holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writers Workshop. She lives in Glenview, Illinois, with her husband, two sons, and their Chihuahua.


  • Green Earth Book Award Short List, Short-listed, 2015


Publishers Weekly

“A cohesive, emotionally intimate story that sensitively handles loss, grief, accomplishment, and the not-so-simple act of growing up.”—Publishers Weekly

Francisco X. Stork

“Read this book because it’s funny and suspenseful and because you will recognize lots of people you know and even yourself in its pages. But read it most of all to remember that at some point in our lives, we are all like lost whales and the only thing that will save us are true friends.” —Francisco X. Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World