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Jonah the Whale and How He Became Incredibly Famous

By Susan Shreve

Jonah’s life is straight out of the pages of People magazine. Or so he’d have you believe....

“Susan Shreve writes like a dream.”
- The Washington Post

⋆ “Eloquently crafted in simple, direct prose, this book is both hard-hitting and a joy to read.” - Publishers Weekly, starred review for The Goalie

The two things that seem endless for Jonah 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. It’s called “Jonah, the Whale” and on it Jonah interviews major 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 him 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 seventh grade.


When the telephone rang, he had set up the tape recorder to record Michael Jordan and was at the fridge checking for something to eat.

“Jonah, the Whale,” he answered.

“I beg your pardon?” his mother said.

“Mama,” Jonah said.

“Who did you expect was calling?”

Jonah thought for a moment. He certainly wasn’t going to tell his mother that he was waiting for a call from Michael Jordan.

“That’s what they call me at school,” he said. “Sort of since I got fat.”

Reviews and Awards

Joan G. Sugarman Honor Book 1998-1999

“Shreve mixes a frothy concoction of fantasy and reality, creating a story in which a boy summons the power of his imagination to translate a difficult situation into a personal victory. It’s literally a dream come true…Jonah, the Whale is a modern fairy tale, a kind of playbook for young daydreamers. Shreve works magic with her writing, making Jonah’s story perfectly plausible.” - Washington Post

“Susan Shreve writes with snap and verve; it’s a treat to see a young hero so ably making lemonade out of an acid bath.” - New York Times Book Review

“Shreve’s understatement and restraint lend a solidity to the kid-success story that such plots rarely possess. The book is pleasantly unpuritanical in its implication that Jonah’s tendency to tell tales is part of his ability to dream that leads to his achievement, and the development of his relationship with Blister from default to genuine friendship is subtly depicted.” - Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Shreve's strong characters, convincing dialogue and soothing dose of fantasy fulfillment will likely have readers casting votes for the return of Jonah.” - Publishers Weekly

“This feel-good story of optimism and success leaves readers with a sense of empowerment.” - School Library Journal

“Despite his propensity for stretching the truth, Jonah is an appealing hero with believable motivations, a loving but beleaguered mother, and a refreshingly sassy friend in Blister. Readers will be pleased with an ending that cleverly combines wish fulfillment and reality.” - Booklist

Purchase Options

Spring 1998
Middle Grade Novel
ISBN: 0-590-37133-9
Price: $14.95/$20.99
Trim Size: 5 1/2" x 8 1/4"
Page Count: 128
Foreign Rights: Scholastic
Translation Rights: Scholastic
Rights Available? yes

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