Jonah the Whale

Jonah the Whale

Young kid comes out of nowhere to become REALLY, REALLY famous

by Susan Shreve, illustrated by Dan Anbresser


The two things that seem endless for Jonah Morrison are his appetite and his imagination. Filling in the holes in his life with snacks and lies, Jonah finds himself in a new neighborhood with a lot of baggage. But when he’s greeted on the first day of school by a blackboard that says, “Welcome, Jonah, the Whale,” Jonah decides to take the name on: He tells everyone that he’s working on a talk show for cable television, where he’ll be the star, interviewing celebrities about their childhoods. When it airs, he will be totally famous and envied by everyone, and his mother’s boyfriend, who split on them, will notice and want to come crawling back, and the Morrisons will be completely rich, and will buy Jonah lots of pants that fit. Of course, none of it’s true to begin with. But that proves to be less of an obstacle than you might think. Susan Shreve works her inimitable blend of magic and dead-on humor into the painfully real world of a boy in trouble in this tremendously satisfying novel about fame, fortune, and the sixth grade.


Jonah stood at the window of his new bedroom, looking down over a courtyard of children he didn’t know, had never even met. They were on their way to school, spilling out of the brown-brick apartment complex in Springwood where he’d lived for eleven days and twelve nights after Thomas Hale, his mother’s boyfriend, the only father he had ever known, had disappeared in New York City — Jonah’s home, the place where he was born.


Thomas Hale was not a subject he was permitted to bring up.


“You need to know this,” his mother had told him, the night before at dinner. “The name Thomas Hale is canceled in our house.”


“Where do you think he’s gone to?” Jonah asked quietly.


“Now, do you think I care where he’s gone to?” his mother said, piling more spaghetti on his plate. “Paris, Nigeria, the Bronx. He could be anyplace. It’s a big world.” She sat down in front of her empty plate. Recently she had not been eating. “All I know is, he’s not here.”

© 2019 Susan Richards Shreve | Design by Cynthia Frank Design | Development by Abacus Design