Treasure of the Blue Whale by Steven Mayfield

Treasure of the Blue Whale by Steven Mayfield
Publisher: Regal House Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (175 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this whimsical, often funny, Depression-era tale, young Connor O’Halloran decides to share a treasure he’s discovered on an isolated stretch of Northern California beach. Almost overnight, his sleepy seaside village is comically transformed into a bastion of consumerism, home to a commode with a jeweled seat cover, a pair of genuinely fake rare documents, a mail-order bride, and an organ-grinder’s monkey named Mr. Sprinkles. But when it turns out that the treasure is not real, Connor must conspire with Miss Lizzie Fryberg and a handful of town leaders he’s dubbed The Ambergrisians to save their friends and neighbors from financial ruin. Along the way, he discovers other treasures in the sometimes languid, sometimes exciting days of that long-ago season. He is rich and then he isn’t. He learns to sail a boat and about sex. He meets a real actor. He sneaks into villainous Cyrus Dinkle’s house and steals his letter opener. He almost goes to jail. He loves Fiona Littleleaf. He finds a father. And best of all, he and little brother, Alex, reclaim their mother from the darkness of mental illness.

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The characterization and character development were handled marvellously. This book had a large cast of characters, but I felt like I got to know everyone intimately because of how descriptive the author was when he talked about their appearances, habits, personalities, and personal histories. Everyone I met in this small town was a unique, three-dimensional human being, including the folks that sometimes acted like villains!

There were a few times when I thought have a ten-year-old narrate this story wasn’t necessarily the most realistic choice. Conner was raised by a single mom whose mental illness meant that she gave both of her kids far more responsibility and freedom than many children have at their ages. Even still, Conner was regularly privy to conversations and adult interpersonal conflicts that weren’t meant for people his age. This was particularly true when it came to the adult’s solution for how to deal with a notorious swindler. As amusing as it was to see his reaction to this, it was something that a child really shouldn’t have been included in. With that being said, I still enjoyed reading the now-adult Connor’s interpretation of what happened during that period in his life.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much humor was packed into the plot. While the main storyline and setting were serious, Conner found plenty of opportunities to share the lighter side of life in Tesoro during the Great Depression. Honestly, these scenes were instrumental in my decision to give this a four star review. Those small moments of unexpected humor endeared me to the characters and made me even more eager to find out if they’d find a way to avoid utter financial ruin for their small, close-knit community.

Treasure of the Blue Whale was a thoughtful book I’d recommend to anyone who loves small towns, nostalgia, or watching characters seek justice in unconventional ways.

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