Not Without My Whale by Billy Coughlan & Villie Karabatzia

It’s your first day of school, you’re a bit nervous so of course you want to take a friend with you! But what if your friend is a whale?

The Story: Arnold is going to school for the first time, he wants to take his whale with him and everybody tries to dissuade him except his neighbour Dora. Arnold’s teacher isn’t happy about the whale being in school but Dora comes up with plans to include him in class activities and at lunchtime feeding the whale helps Arnold to make new friends. However, when the teacher makes them do extra sums Arnold’s whale inadvertently brings their maths lesson to a halt!

Not Without My Whale - Story SnugStarting school can be a stressful experience for many children and it is only natural that they will want to take a familiar friend wth them on their first day, the fact that Arnold’s friend is a whale adds humour to the situation. Arnold’s teacher has lots of excuses as to why the whale can’t join them in class but resourceful and quick thinking Dora comes up with solutions to include him in their lessons. Arnold’s repetitive refrain ‘not without my whale’ acknowledges his fears about joining in and his insecurities about the new experiences but these fears are gradually eradicated to the point where he is having fun and is quoting Dora’s catchphrase ‘I think we can manage’.

Villie Karabatzia’s illustrations are fun and colourful, Arnold’s whale is very friendly looking and we love the picture of him singing in assembly. There are so many humorous touches in the pictures – the octopus on the whale’s head, the way that Dora and Arnold transport him to school, the whale being noisy and the final illustration which leads the story to a smelly conclusion which my daughter found very funny!

This is a fun story to read if you are looking for a humorous and lighthearted way to talk to your child about their first day at preschool, nursery or school. It can be used in a reception classroom to stimulate discussions with children about their feelings about their first day and making friends but it could also be used with older children to help them talk about how they feel about and deal with new situations. This would also be a fun story to include in a topic on oceans and could encourage children to find out more about different kinds of whales, their habitats, their diet and where they live in the world.

If you know a child who is starting school or nursery this year this is a fun story to show them that any fears that they may have are natural and that they are not alone in being anxious about the new experience.

Age Range: 3 +

Author: Billy Coughlan / Illustrator: Ville Karabatzia

Thank you to Maverick Books for sending us a review copy of Not Without My Whale, we love the originality of this humorous look at the first day of school!

10 thoughts on “Not Without My Whale by Billy Coughlan & Villie Karabatzia

  1. We’ve been talking to Olly about going to school and reassuring him he’s going to have a fantastic time (he’ll be going to pre-school in September) this looks like a fantastic book #TriedTested

    • Not Without My Whale looks at the experience of starting school from such a humorous angle. There are so many lovely picture books to prepare children for starting school, my daughter’s favourite was Lucky Wish Mouse Starting School by Clara Vulliamy, she still loves reading it now!

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