The Day the Whale Came by Eve Bunting

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Synopsis

At the turn of the century, sideshows traveled by train across the country, displaying oddities of one sort or another. Captain Pinkney stopped in Johnstown, Illinois, with his own attraction: a dead humpback whale. Ben and his friend Tommy are on their way to see the whale when Tommy shows Ben his penknife, which he intends to use to get a souvenir. Ben doesn’t want to go along with Tommy’s plan to cut off a piece of the whale. Ben cares about the whale, even if it is dead, and he learns about standing up for what he believes in.
 

About Eve Bunting

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Eve Bunting is the award-winning author of scores of picture books and novels, including Smoky Night, winner of the Caldecott Medal. She lives with her husband in Pasadena, California. They have five grandchildren.
 
Published March 1, 1998 by HMH Books for Young Readers. 32 pages
Genres: Nature & Wildlife, Children's Books.

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When a train pulls into town carting a dead whale, the citizens of Johnstown, Illinois—one in a Model A—eagerly hand over their buffalo-head nickels and dimes to Captain Pinkney for a chance to view the dead behemoth.

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Francisco, trying to find work for his grandfather, or abuelo, who has just arrived from Mexico, acts as a liaison between Abuelo, who doesn't speak English, and Ben, who wants to hire a gardener for a day's work.

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On bite-size honeycombs: ""The honey tastes of the flowers the bees drank from, and the wax is as thick in your mouth as chewing gum."" Tess's friendship with Wee Boy, whose growth has been stunted, adds a tender underpinning to the story;

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and, finally, to the book that Miss Drake writes based on her Third Street experience ("We love the dedication:/ To all the kids at Third Street School / with love and admiration ").

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A narrator searches through pasture and stable seeking the creature "born on this special day."

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A boy lies to secure work for his grandfather, newly arrived from Mexico;

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The likable narrator explains that an entrepreneur has rolled into his small Illinois town on a train, selling admission to a ""once-in-a-lifetime"" viewing (""for educational purposes"") of his freakish cargo: a smelly dead whale.

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