Here Come the Humpbacks! book cover image

Here Come the Humpbacks!

  • 1795

By: April Pulley Sayre / Illustrated by: Jamie Hogan

The migration of a most majestic mammal.

In this book by acclaimed science writer April Pulley Sayre, young readers follow along as a mother humpback whale and her calf make their annual trek from the warm waters of the Caribbean to their summer feeding grounds off the coast of New England and back again. Within this extraordinary story of migration, Sayre provides information about how humpback whales breathe, sing, and how they got their name—a secondary layer of text expands upon the more intricate details.

But aside from the basics about the humpback whale species, Here Come the Humpbacks! also delves into the dangers these whales face—from other mammals and sea life such as hungry orcas, to man-made threats like pollution and giant ships.

Jamie Hogan’s stunning, rich pastel illustrations complement Sayre’s text beautifully, and make this book a great choice for a read-aloud in the classroom, library, or at home.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

April Pulley Sayre, author

April Pulley Sayre is the award-winning author of over 50 books for young readers, including If You Should Hear a Honey Guide (Houghton Mifflin), Army Ant Parade (Holt), and One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab (Candlewick). Sayre's books, renowned for their lyricism and accuracy, have been translated into several languages. Sayre has a warm, fuzzy place in her heart for bumblebees. She flies around the country speaking to thousands of schoolchildren each year and has been known to encourage children to chirp and buzz as they explore the sounds of words and the joy of writing.

Read more about April.

Jamie Hogan, illustrator

Jamie Hogan grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration. She began her freelance career in Boston, with work appearing frequently in the Boston Globe. She taught editorial illustration at the Art Institute of Boston and became active in the Graphic Artists Guild. Her illustrations have been included in American Illustration, PRINT Magazine, Graphis, and the Society of Illustrators.

Read more about Jamie.

Awards & Honors:

  • An NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
  • Green Earth Book Award Shortlist, picture book category
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews

"Flippers paddle. Flukes push. In every ocean on Earth, humpback whales swim." So begins this introduction to humpback migration.

Sayre structures her tale around a mother whale, beginning as she is about to give birth and migrate north to colder waters with her calf. Their journey will be long, and they will face many dangers, man-made and natural. The primary text features fairly short sentences, onomatopoeia and simple vocabulary to engage younger readers. Italicized asides interspersed throughout go into greater depth for older children and their grown-ups, discussing whale songs, food sources and survival challenges to name just a few. Deep blues and greens highlighted with white crests are rendered in charcoal and pastel on sanded paper, providing a textural immediacy that plunges readers into the ocean. The occasional placement of black text over Hogan's appropriately murky depths occasionally makes reading a challenge. A conclusion provides more detailed information on migration and studying whales.

There's plenty of drama and appeal in this primary-grade introduction.

Publishers Weekly

In a story about a humpback whale calf, Sayre balances informative text with polished prose that lightly personifies the animals: "Head down, in deeper water, a male whale sings. His song rhymes and repeats. All the male whales in the area know this year's song--yet they vary it like jazz musicians onstage." As mother and calf move from the shallows into the open ocean, they encounter other creatures and objects, which Sayre introduces in offset text about whale-watching tours, barnacles, suckerfish, chemical pollution, and more. Hogan's charcoal and pastel illustrations subtly vary texture, light, and shades of blue to convey the changes in the submarine environment as the whales travel.

School Library Journal

This picture book about a year in the life of a humpback mother and calf is beautifully illustrated in soft charcoal pencil and pastel on sanded paper. A varying perspective--from eye level, below, and above the water level--places the whales in context with their environment and other wildlife. The narrative of the growth and development of the newborn male calf flows on the left side of each spread as he thrives in the warm Caribbean Sea. Brief explanations and information on the recto expand upon the story with factual information. The perils of life and migration are objectively presented, including man-made dangers of pollution and marine traffic and dangers from the humpbacks' fierce natural enemy, the orca, and even other humpbacks. All ends well for the mother and son as they make their way through the dangers to their summer feeding grounds off the coast of New England. The stunning art and well-presented information make this an attractive addition to any collection.


This is a lyrical and seemingly straightforward tale of a mother humpback and her calf migrating from the warm winter waters of the Caribbean Sea to a summer feeding area off the coast of New England. Yet the simple text delivers a subtle and timely message of conservation, not to mention a fable about perseverance and courage. Along their way, the humpbacks encounter all manner of dangerous and wondrous obstacles, including a brush with a hungry orca, an encounter with a boat of whale watchers, and ocean liners crossing their migratory path. The descriptive text ("One slaps the escort whale with a flipper. Bonk! Smack!") and Hogan's panoramic, cool-colored charcoals make this obvious read-along fodder, but both elements are also detailed enough to engage independent learners. As is becoming increasingly common, the story is punctuated with nonfiction facts in a smaller font, regarding everything from humpback songs to whale-watching rules. A little something for everyone here.


Download the Cover


ISBN: 978-1-58089-405-0
ISBN: 978-1-58089-406-7

E-book PDF
ISBN: 978-1-60734-586-2
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 4-8
Page count: 40
11 x 8 1/2

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