Moby-Monday: Misunderstood Whale Tells All

Not since “On Top of Spaghetti” has one little sneeze caused so much trouble. According to a group of New Bedford fifth graders, the fateful chomp that launched Captain Ahab’s quest for revenge against Moby Dick was caused by a bad head cold.

“I sneezed, and when I did, I accidentally bit Captain Ahab’s leg right off!” says the hero of Moby-Dick Through the Eyes of the Whale, a new book written and illustrated by students at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. “Believe what I’m telling you,” the whale continues. “It tasted horrifyingly gross!”

The book, which was published through Nationwide Learning, Inc., is a project of the school’s Moby Dick Club. The eight students read a junior edition of Moby-Dick and met weekly to discuss it under the tutelage of teacher Debra Perry. Now that they have created their own version of the story, the club is reading it to first graders at their school.

Is there a minimum age for hearing Herman Melville’s brutal tale of vengeance, obsession, havoc, and death? Not in New Bedford, an old whaling town that is, after all, where Ishmael, the novel’s narrator, hooks up with bosom buddy Queequeg. According to Perry, the ten- and eleven-year-olds chosen to read Moby-Dick in the club all knew the book’s ending already.

Margaret Guroff is the editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.

Photograph by Allan Foster, licensed through Creative Commons.

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