The Fisherman and the Whale

Written and illustrated by Jessica Lanan
May 2019, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 1534415742

A fisherman takes his son for a trip out on the water. When they encounter a whale entangled at sea, they realize a connection that transcends the animal kingdom.

This emotional wordless tale speaks of our complicated relationship with the natural world and the deep bond that all living creatures share.

Featured in the 2019 Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibit
November 14, 2019 through January 4, 2020
New York, NY

A Colorado Book Award finalist for 2020

Winner of the 2020 Bull-Bransom Award

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It is a book with an agenda — and it is also breathtaking.

Sabrina Montenigro, The Horn Book, Calling Caldecott blog

The day’s events are wordlessly and beautifully conveyed in watercolor and gouache … This impressive and eloquent tale is recommended for all picture book collections

★ School Library Journal, Starred Review

The highly dramatic paintings, employing a palette of blues, browns and grays, are sure to stimulate a range of emotions, encouraging readers to return again and again … This wordless picture book, with its breathtaking paintings of the sea, does a splendid job of helping young readers realize that our planet must be shared.

★ Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

Lanan tells her wordless tale in strong, confident watercolors…[her] cinematic storytelling pace never flags. She distills the global problem of sea life trapped by nets into a tightly focused narrative in which those who caused the damage are able to save the animal they hurt.

—Publishers Weekly

Lanan’s wordless narrative pulls viewers right into the choppy waves of her gouache-and-watercolor world… This compelling fictional introduction raises awareness and empathy for a very real environmental problem.


Lanan’s watercolor and gouache paintings are expansive and cinematic as she takes readers under the water; gives us aerial views; and, in a moment of profound connection just before the man frees the whale, paints on the verso the pupil of the man’s eye reflecting the whale and, on the recto, the pupil of the whale’s eye reflecting the two humans. While there is occasional spot art, most spreads are full-bleed and place readers right at the center of the action…. a compelling tale worth sharing.

—The Horn Book


Read an interview about the book on Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog.

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