Kid’s Book Review: Setsuko and the Song of the Sea

Kid’s Book Review: Setsuko and the Song of the Sea

About the Book and Author

This beautifully illustrated story for children, set in Japan, has a message about community and environmental responsibility and can be enjoyed by children of all ages, according to the the mother of our young reviewer.

Written by Fiona Baker with pictures by Howard Gray and  Japanese text by Hideaki Matsuya 松矢英晶 this special book is published by Tiny Tree Books. We think it would make a lovely story for bedtime as it is gentle and has a soothingly magical quality to it.

Setsuko loves the sea. She swims its shallows. She dives its depths. But she worries that her friends have chosen to abandon her way of life. Then she meets a whale who also fears he is the last of his kind. In return for giving him hope, he gifts her a song which she uses to remind people of the beauty of the ocean. Setsuko took the song and made it her own. They played together from the first crisp light of morning until the setting of the evening sun. Everyone who heard Setsuko’s song was filled with the wonder of the sea. They remembered the beauty and mystery of the ocean.

Setsuko cover
Fiona Barker author

Fiona Barker wrote The Song of the Sea for marine biologist and illustrator, Howard Gray, so he could paint a whale and utilise his awesome skills creating underwater scenes.

At the time, she also undertook the Marine Conservation Society’s challenge to go plastic free in July 2017, which turned out to be the start of a life-changing journey.

Fiona wanted to pair the whale in the story with an inspirational human character and she could think of none more so than the ama-san. Revered as ‘mothers of the sea’, these strong women have been diving without breathing equipment in the cold waters off the Shima Penninsula for over 2000 years.

Setsuko, a young girl training to become one of these real-life mermaids, was born.

Howard Gray has also illustrated Danny and the Dream Dog which was written by Fiona Barker. If you like Setsuko please visit Tiny Tree Books to find out more about the other book they co-created.

Book Review

When the fish and animals are surrounded by bottles and bags I felt sad

I liked reading this book and looking at all the pictures. It is a story about a girl who loves the ocean and swimming.

The little girl, Setsuko, makes friends with a enormous whale and they have lots and fun playing. I loved all the pictures of her diving down and spotting all the different fish and animals.

After looking reading it a few times I noticed a lot of the things in the sea were actually rubbish. All the fish and animals are surrounded by bottles and bags, this made me feel sad.

At the end of the book the whale has to go back to his friends and he leaves Setsuko with a beautiful song. She and her friends then start collecting all the rubbish off the beach. This made me feel happy.

This book is set in Japan and has lots of Japanese writing on each page, which I liked looking at too.

Jasper’s Mum says: This was such a gorgeous book and I loved reading with all of my children (aged 18 months, 4 and 7 years old).

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If you would would like to buy a copy of the book we invite you to order it from your local independent book shop.

Or, you can shop on-line and support our Kids Reviews page by sourcing your discounted book via this link

Please Buy Here

Alternatively, we suggest that you visit your local library and request to borrow a copy from a friendly librarian.

Whichever you choose, we hope you enjoy being part of your unique reading community – happy reading everyone!


Reviewer Profile

  • Name: Jasper
  • Age: 4 years
  • Likes: swimming, biking and building with Lego
  • Dislikes: wasps and bacon
  • Favourite Book: Fantastic Mister Fox by Roald Dahl
  • Favourite Song: The Ballard of Davy Crockett by Fess Parker
  • Favourite Film: Octonauts and the Caves of Sac Actun