Sample text for The lighthouse family. The whale / Cynthia Rylant ; illustrated by Preston McDaniels.

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Chapter 2: The Whale

Whistler and Lila were walking along the rocky shore, happily collecting shells, when from out in the water came a long, sad cry.

"What's that?" asked Lila, stopping and looking across the sea.

She and Whistler stood very still and listened.

There it was again. The saddest, loneliest cry they had ever heard.

Whistler scrambled up a tall stick. Lila followed.

"Who's there?" called Whistler as loudly as he could (and a small mouse voice is not very loud).

"Who's there?" Lila called after him.

Most fortunately, most luckily, most wonderful for all, the creature who was crying had very good ears.

Up from the water popped a shiny white head.

"Me!" the creature called, and began to cry.

"My goodness!" said Lila. "It's a baby whale!"

And indeed it was. A baby beluga whale, in fact. And, oh, how it could cry.

"We'll be right there!" shouted Whistler. "Don't move!"

And within minutes the two children had run for their small boat (built for them by Seabold) and were rowing out to the whale.

When they finally reached him, the baby beluga was quite exhausted. Too exhausted even to cry anymore. He simply looked at them with frantic, frightened eyes.

"I've lost my mother," he whimpered.

"Oh, dear!" said Lila in distress. Being an orphan, Lila was very sensitive to babies with lost mothers.

"Where did you lose her?" asked Whistler.

The beluga looked as if he might start crying again. But he didn't.

"Somewhere," he said. "We were swimming and a big pod of humpbacks came through, and there were so many, and I saw a baby I thought I could play with and I followed him and then...and then..."

The baby whale sobbed.

"Then the humpbacks swam away all of a sudden and I was by myself."

"Oh, dear," said Lila.

The little whale floated silently. He was looking most tragic. The two mouse children gazed at him with deepest sympathy.

Suddenly Whistler declared, "We will find your mother!"

Lila looked at him in surprise.

The beluga's eyes brightened.

"Really?" he said. "You can find her?"

"Definitely. We are experts at finding lost mothers," Whistler fibbed.

Lila looked at him in even greater surprise.

"Here's what I want you to do," Whistler said to the baby. "Oh, by the way -- what is your name?"

"Sebastian," said the whale. Whistler introduced himself and Lila.

"Very happy to meet you," said the well-mannered, tear-soaked beluga.

Whistler resumed. "Here's what I want you to do," he said. "Do you see that lagoon over there?"

The baby nodded his head.

"I want you to go over there and rest," said Whistler. "It's quite nice, the water is warm, and sometimes an otter comes along with a good story."

The whale nodded again.

"All right," he said.

"What is your mother's name?" Whistler asked.

"Mama," said the whale.

"No, no," said Lila. "He means her real name."

"Oh," said the baby. "Everybody calls her Honey."

"Honey?" repeated Lila. "What a nice name."

"She's a nice mama," said the beluga.

"Now you go over to the lagoon and wait for us, all right?" said Whistler.

"All right," answered Sebastian. "I'm a little sleepy anyway."

"Of course you are," said Lila.

"See you soon," said Whistler. "Don't worry."

As they watched the baby beluga swim toward the lagoon, Lila whispered to Whistler, "And just how are we going to find that mama whale?"

Whistler whispered back, "I have no idea."

Then he looked squarely at Lila.

"But we are going to do it!"

Text copyright © 2003 by Cynthia Rylant

Illustration copyright © 2003 by Preston McDaniels

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Animals -- Fiction.
White whale -- Fiction.
Whales -- Fiction.
Lost children -- Fiction.