Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Mira and the Lost Baby Whale is an adorable, animal-centered children's adventure by Yuqian Wang! It features the titular Mira and her amazing friends as they join forces on a mission of compassion. Together, they try to reunite a baby whale, Bobo, with his mother after she has been taken by a notorious vessel known as the Crimson Reaper.
This book is an enormous improvement over the previous one, Mira and the Magical Dragon, particularly in terms of writing and plot. The writing in here is brief, concise, and to the point, as is the plot. In Mira and the Magical Dragon there was a lot of randomness—jumping from one thing to another—that seemed to distract and detract from the central plot of finding the titular dragon. That's not an issue in this book. Aside from a small red herring in the form of a pirate ship, this book is really straightforward and, thus, much more easy to follow and understand than the previous one. That's particularly important when it comes to a children's book.
Children have very small attention spans and need something they can latch onto and follow easily. This book accomplishes that. Mira and Bobo are very easy to follow. Their struggles are relatable since everyone has lost a loved one in a crowd before and worried about them. It's a scary feeling! Take, for example, a parent whose child wanders off in a grocery store. Sometimes, the best thing to do is keep your cool and seek help. That's what Mira does. Instead of trying to take on this big, huge problem all by herself, Mira collaborates with and works with others.
She goes to Molly the Mermaid to interview for information on the ship that took Bobo's mother. Molly might be a candidate for “Hottest Character” by the way. She rides on the back of Delilah, her magical dragon friend who was a central character in the last book. That's especially awesome since it adds a layer of continuity to this series. Delilah is also able to provide covering fire (literally) when needed.
Along the way, Mira meets a pirate captain named Pugzy. Now, normally, we wouldn't advise that kids associate themselves with strangers, especially with people like pirates, but Pugzy is portrayed as a sympathetic, mostly well-meaning character as opposed to a Black Beard or Captain Hook. He's just another ship captain. “Pirate” seems more like a buzzword than anything. This is also fantasy, so make of it what you will.
Pugzy is able to relate to and empathize with Mira and Bobo because his favorite manta ray friend, Ray, was also taken by the same red ship. So, he joins Mira and Bobo in pursuit of the book's villain, personified by the ominous red ship, the Crimson Reaper (implied to be a fishing and/or whaling vessel). In probably the book's most violent scene, it is shown that the Crimson Reaper harpooned Bobo's mother. The wound is shown from a distance with some blood. It could be argued that kids see blood all the time when they fall and scrape their knees/elbows. It's not major.
The Crimson Reaper is part of what makes this book great. It's a great villain and a great rallying point for essentially all the other characters in the book. They all have a bone to pick with this ship. They all have a personal vendetta with it, either losing a friend, a family member, or being scared off by it.
Now, it is a little humorous to think that this ship is probably manned by people who are just doing their jobs and not thinking about the environmental impact or personal nature of their actions. Compound that with the fact that Delilah basically sets the ship on fire with her breath and that the heroes basically release all the fish that the ship caught, and you get a kinda sobering feeling that maybe our heroes just ruined the livelihoods of a dozen or more career seamen and left their families destitute. However, maybe we're reading too much into all that. It's a children's book after all.
Really, you don't get to know the people on the Crimson Reaper, just the consequences of their actions. So, it's kinda a faceless villain—something we're supposed to interpret as objectively bad or evil. So, as a consequence, this book becomes a very relatable and understandable struggle between good and evil, compassion and malice, helping and hurting.
We could easily see this book becoming a cartoon. It actually reminds us a little bit of some of the Finding Nemo movies.
The art, we'd say, isn't quite elite, but it's greatly improved from the last book. Everything looks colorful and finished. The proportions are also mostly good. There are times when, like, the baby whale looks flat. Many of the characters still look like basic geometric shapes, primarily circles and ovals. With that said, it's still appealing and looks better than in the last book. For example, Mira's hair actually has texture and layers to it now. Molly, as we said, looks attractive. Heck, even the pirate looks ok. His facial hair even stands out in some scenes. It is impressive to think that the author drew and colored every single one of these pages on her own! We commend her for that!
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