Watchful Wishing Whirling Wandas Whale Pleas

Wanda watches wistfully wishing while whirling and twirling along sandy shores in hopes of seeing a whale. Coincidentally the whales seem to respond but who sees the whale sightings? This rhyming story celebrates a little girl’s optimistic determination to discover the awestruck wonder of one of the largest animals in the world.

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The cover for the children's story "Watchful Wishing Whirling Wanda's Whale Pleas!"

The front cover of Watchful Wishing Whirling Wanda’s Whale Pleas

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The Backstory

It was December 2017 and our family was in Hawaii for just before Christmas. We met our friends Rick and Karen at an Italian restaurant. Karen and I were chatting about writing and whales. One thing led to another and we were brainstorming whale story concepts. Initially the idea was to write a story about a little girls who would see whales , tell everyone that she saw one but every time people looked there wasn’t one, so she would appear to be lying until finally she would be able to share the real experience with someone. Well I began writing with this intent and the story evolved another way in which everyone else sees the whales expect Wanda. I really wanted the grandparents to save the day, as so often grandparents have a way to make wishes come true…ordinary super heroes.

An illustration of Keith

A self-portrait of Keith Cains

About the Illustrator

Keith has always drawn and painted. As a child, after the war when here were shortages of so many things, he would paint Christmas cards for the family to send to friends and relatives. In the early days most of his work involved pencil drawings and later he did many pen and ink drawings. This was complimented by his work as a draftsman for many years.

In recent years Keith has been drawn into the fascinating and often frustrating world of watercolour painting. He says sometimes it seems like the paints have a mind of their own which can often lead to surprising results, sometimes good and sometimes not so good. Keith draws inspiration mostly from the natural world, landscapes, seascapes, birds and animals in particular but recently he has turned his hand to portraits and figure painting. He sees each new painting as an exciting journey, never sure of where the path will lead but always interesting and rewarding. His immediate ambition is to embark on some large scale works which he sees as particularly challenging for the watercolour painter. Maybe he just needs larger brushes. Now, if he can just get the cat to move off his drawing-board…..

He has participated in the Sidney Fine Art Show several times and in 2015 earned Honorable Mention for his work titled “Family Elephant”.

Guide for Reading: PRC

Predictions, Reflections and Connections


Predicting is an essential tool when developing as a strong reader. This story has been written to hook the young audience in engaging in predictable events.

Ask the following questions:

Simple sequencing of time… Over how many days did the story take place? What do you think will happen on the first day? What might happen on the second day? Do you think Wanda might sing and dance again? What happened on the third day? Do you think Wanda might sing and dance again?

Do you think the Wanda will see a whale on the first day? When she is with her friend Wesley do you think they will see a whale? Who do you think someone will see a whale on the third day?

Predicting the rhyme and bringing it to memory… During the reading of the rhymes encourage your listener to chime in the rhyme. Start by hesitating and encourage guessing what the rhyming words are at the end of the lines. By the end chime out the rhyme together.

What do you predict Wanda’s plan is when she asks her mom if her grandparents will take her fishing?

What do you predict is Wanda’s secret wish?


Reflecting throughout a book makes the story extra personal and come alive. It reflects a reader’s level of comprehension. A more thoughtful and complex reflection and connection reveal a higher understanding of the story. They also help reinforce one’s memory sequence which forms the basis of a retelling with more detail and reference to nuance. A simple and literal retelling reflects a more simplistic understanding.

Use the following questions for points of discussion:

Does this story remind you of any of your summer holidays? How?

Does this story remind you of your grandparents?

Have you ever seen a whale?

Have you ever sang and danced to get something to happen?

How do you feel when disappointed that something hasn’t happened? Do you get down? Do you keep trying? What strategies have you done to try to work through a discouraging situation?

What is your favourite part of the story and why?

Does this story remind you of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf? How is it different or the same? The Boy Who Cried Wolf


Making connections facilitates a deeper understanding of a story through making inferences, noting details and relating them to prior information. It is seeing, linking, and articulating other topics and events to the story. The reader is applying this reading experience to other learned information. Often when making connections the reader will arrive at exciting new insights that extend beyond the literal story.

Use the following questions for points of discussion:

Why does Wanda not dance when singing on the boat?

Have you noticed anything in common about the names of the characters in this story?

Looking at the pictures can you determine what these whaling terms might mean?

  • Breach: is when a whale jumps out of the water and smacks back down, like a belly flop into the ocean. When they breach it can be heard up to a kilometre away.
  • Lob-tailing: is when a whale lifts its tail out of the water then smacks it down hard.
  • Spy-hopping: is when a whale pokes its head out of the water vertically. It is compared to a human treading water.

Wanda asks the whales to blow water from its spout. Do you think she is right or might she need to do more research? Learn more about whales. A whale breaths through its blowhole and blows out moist air that can include snot, (gross).