Cover image for Mocha Dick : the legend and fury
Mocha Dick : the legend and fury
Heinz, Brian J., 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Mankato, MN : Creative Editions, 2014.
Physical Description:
32 pages : color illustrations ; 31 cm
"The original great white whale, first spied off the coast of Chile in 1810, becomes a prime target for whalers as he thrashes about the Pacific and achieves legendary status"--
Reading Level:
800 Lexile.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PZ10.3.H317 MOC 2014 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"A tour de force of design, story and illustration." -Kirkus Starred Review

In 1839, Herman Melville was among the New Yorkers who thrilled to a magazine account of a white sperm whale's attacks on whaling ships. That whale was named Mocha Dick, but 12 years later, he would be immortalized in fiction as Moby-Dick. Believed to have been active from 1810 to 1859, Mocha Dick was infamous for the ferocity of his retaliations against those who attempted to capture him. From the first recorded encounter near the South American island of Mocha till the fatal harpoon blow, Mocha Dick was a legend in his own time. In language befitting a sea lore, author Brain Heinz describes characteristic episodes of the great whale's life, as illustrator Randall Enos animates the tale in a textured style evocative of scrimshaw.

Author Notes

Brian Heinz is the critically acclaimed author of 15 books for young readers and is sought after as a speaker on the craft of writing. He and his wife Judy split their time between homes in New York's Wading River and the Adirondacks.

Randall Enos has illustrated for books, magazines, and newspapers for more than 50 years. Born of Portugeuse Azorean heritage in the former whaling capital of the world (New Bedford, Massachusetts), he has carried with him a lifelong interest in the history of whaling.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* For almost 50 years, a huge albino sperm whale spotted off Isla Mocha (whence the name Mocha Dick) antagonized whalers by aggressively attacking and evading their ships, and tales of this legendary leviathan went on to inspire Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. Heinz and Enos dramatize a few accounts of Mocha Dick's activity in this beautifully designed picture book. When whalers spot Mocha Dick in 1810 and he handily escapes their harpoons, the sailors note his already scarred appearance. From then on, reports of an unstoppable white whale attacking whalers and even preventing dead whales from being brought aboard continue to roll in until 1859, when Mocha Dick is reported dead. Enos' linocut illustrations are simply stunning each mesmerizing, scrimshawlike composition contains a jumble of textures and brassy colors in each thrilling scene, from the concentric loops of a roiling sea to the rough, jagged shape of a crushed hull. The whale appears both vicious and mischievous, adding an extra dose of drama to Heinz's descriptive lines. While a list of sources or further reading would have been useful, most kiddos will be utterly entranced by the folk art-style illustrations, which seem to tell the story enough on their own.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Heinz's (Red Fox at McCloskey's Farm) history of the whale that inspired Melville's Moby-Dick is beautifully written, magnificently illustrated, and agonizing to read. The white whale Mocha Dick, named for the island off Chile whose waters he frequented, was hunted and wounded, but survived: "Six teeth were shattered, one eye made blind." His encounter with a harpoon made him a warrior bent on revenge. He pursued whalers and attacked them, sinking harpooners' boats and sending sailors to the bottom of the sea before he was tracked down and slaughtered by those whose cruelty drove him mad. Enos's (My Full Moon Is Square) superb linocuts recall 19th-century folk art. He combs the waves with curls and swells, then breaks them with the bulk of the breaching whale. The sailors who tumble out of their boats cry out of gaping, toothy mouths. In the borders, neatly labeled portraits of sea life and whaling tools ignore the mayhem within. Only the most resolute readers will come away unaffected: "Mocha Dick made a final lunge, but his strength ebbed away. His spirit was broken." Ages 6-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Gr 3 up-This intricately designed picture book tells the story of the real life whale that inspired Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. The tale begins in 1810, near the island of Mocha, with the spotting of a sperm whale by a whaling crew. The ship gave chase, harpooning the whale, who burst from the water, attacking the small boat ("The huge head shook savagely until only splinters remained."). Christened Mocha Dick by the sailors, this giant continued to battle with whaling crews over the years, most famously sinking the 238-ton Essex in 1820, until meeting his end in 1859. Much like a tall tale, the legend of Mocha Dick is a combination of history and embellishment. Heinz's text relies on powerful imagery to convey the strength and magnificence of the whale ("Droplets fell like jewels upon his back. His flukes hammered the surface like a cannon shot."), while Enos's linocut collage illustrations, surrounded by colorful borders, are reminiscent of scrimshaw and capture the story's action well. Pair this exciting title with Eric Kimmel's Moby Dick: Chasing the Great White Whale (Feiwel & Friends, 2012) to contrast the real and fictional whales or with Nathaniel Philbrick's Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex (Penguin, 2002) to give students more information on the Essex.- Jackie Partch, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.