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The Picture Book Buzz

A Whale of a Mistake - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I sincerely doubt there is anyone alive (now or ever) who hasn't made some mistake, at some point in their lives. After all, as Alexander Pope said, "To err is human."

Take a moment and think of the last mistake you made. Was it a teeny-tiny oops, a very minor mistake that didn't affect things very much? Too big a squirt of shampoo or perhaps too enthusiastic a rinse of a dish that soaked the counter?

Or was it perhaps a gigantic, immense mistake, one that had significant consequences that you couldn't stop thinking about. One that seemed poised to take over, if not ruin, your life.

What do you do when you make such a BIG mistake? How do you handle it? How would you help a friend, sibling, parent, or student deal with making a 'monstrous' mistake? This week's #PPBF pick offers an idea for dealing with these gigantic mistakes; wonderfully packed into a lyrical metaphor.

A Whale of a Mistake

Author/illustrator: Ioana Hobai

Publisher: Page Street Publishing (2020)

Ages: 4-8



Mistakes, emotions, reflection, and acceptance.


When you make a mistake—a big mistake, a HUGE mistake—it can weigh you down or even swallow you whole! As one kid finds herself swept away by her whale of a mistake, she takes readers along on a journey of emotions. When the girl pauses to stare at the night sky, she realizes something important: there are as many mistakes in the world as stars in the sky, and maybe she can handle it after all. As the seemingly huge whale begins to shrink, the girl embraces her mistake and finds her way back to solid ground.

Through clever wordplay and atmospheric art, this fantastical story shows that with a little time, perspective, and reflection, you can learn and move on from mistakes, no matter the size.

Opening Lines:


You made a mistake.

You worry.

The more you worry, the more it grows, until.

What I LOVED about this book:

Leaving "the mistake" undefined and utilizing the second person point of view, the story immediately draws the reader into the story and allows them to identify with the child and view their own mistakes through the child's eyes.

© Ioana Hobai 2020

As Ioana Hobai beautifully demonstrates, the more you worry about the mistake you made, the bigger it grows. Until it is as enormous as a whale and "swallows you whole." No matter what you do, you're unable to escape the mistake. You're stuck.

Launched on a physical journey, through choppy seas, and an emotional journey of acceptance and courage, the child gradually begins to accept the mistake and the fear it caused. Calming, the child discovers a tranquil night sky of perfect stars. But looking closer, the child notices that in fact "there's a whole universe of mistakes." Maybe it's my love of Van Gogh's Starry, Starry Night, but this is one of my favorite illustrations in the book (sorry, but my photo doesn't do it justice). Notice, the tiny child on its huge whale of a problem, tucked in the bottom left corner, dwarfed by the vast swirling, messy universe.

© Ioana Hobai 2020

The ultimate resolution is tender and heart-lifting. Ioana's ink, watercolor, and acrylic illustrations beautifully mirror the child's mood. The initial dark blues and purples slowly transition into pink and soft blue hues. Overall, a great book for anyone who's ever made a mistake, whether a minnow or a whale of one. A book that encourages reflection, acceptance (of our mistakes and ourselves), and letting go.


- make a list, write a story, or draw a picture of both a small and a big mistake that you've made.

- make your own whale (

- read What to do With a Problem by Kobi Yamada, Even Superheroes Make Mistakes by Shelly Becker, and The Day Roy Riegels Ran the Wrong Way, by Dan Gutman. How do the characters deal with making mistakes?

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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