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‘The Whaler’s Daughter’

'The Whale's Daughter'

Voting for the 2022 Kids’ Book Choice Awards is now underway with Long Island author Jerry Mikorenda in the running in two prestigious categories.

The Northport author’s teen novel The Whaler’s Daughter was nominated in the Favorite Character Crush category for the character of Figgie, and himself for Best Stellar Storyteller.

“It’s an honor just to be considered with all these great authors and I’m particularly happy to see the character of Figgie recognized,” said Mikorenda. “He’s just about the coolest indigenous dude you ever want to meet, and the best friend ever to have on an adventure.”

The Whaler’s Daughter (Regal House Publishing), is a historical seafaring novel that takes place in 1910 on a whaling station in New South Wales, Australia. There twelve-year-old Savannah Dawson lives with her widowed father. She’s desperate to prove to him that she can carry on the family legacy, but no one wants a girl in a whaleboat—that is, until Figgie helps Savannah hone her whaling skills and learn about the Law of the Bay. The story is about unexpressed grief, and how friendship can turn revenge into repentance, anger to empathy, and hurt into hopefulness.

“This award program is great on so many levels because it gives the intended audience final say over the results while also teaching the importance of civic participation and the responsibility of voting,” added the author. “I’d encourage all eligible kids to vote for their choices.”

The Kids’ Book Choice Awards are the only national book awards chosen solely by kids and teens. The Children’s Book Council is the nonprofit trade association of children’s book publishers in North America, dedicated to supporting the industry and promoting children’s books and reading. The first round of voting is underway and goes until August 20.

KBC Vote 2022


Favorite Character Crush


Best Stellar Storyteller


Book trailers are the latest rage being used to grab the attention of potential readers who rely on social media for their news. Just like movie previews, an eye-catching trailer can jump start a book’s title recognition, broaden its audience, and pump-up sales.

“We live in a visual culture where people connect through imagery,” said author, Jerry Mikorenda. “With the pandemic limiting social interaction, I needed something that could viscerally connect readers to my novel on an emotive level.”

That book, The Whaler’s Daughter (Regal House Publishing), a historical seafaring novel, complicated the visual storytelling.

“To convey the story in a meaningful way, I needed experienced outdoor videographers,” added Mikorenda. “I thought nearby Five Towns College has a Visual Arts program with students looking for real life experience in producing the kind of scenes my trailer needed. It seemed like a good match.”

The result is an evocative, two-minute video shot on Long Island; acted, and produced by Long Island students.

“For me, the most rewarding part was seeing how these young artists embraced the material and the extra effort they put into bringing the story to life,” added the author. “I hope it gave them a glimpse into the business side of the Arts.”

You can watch the book trailer for The Whaler’s Daughter by clicking on the YouTube link below. 


The Whaler’s Daughter takes place in 1910 on a whaling station in New South Wales, Australia, where twelve-year-old Savannah Dawson lives with her widowed father. The story is about unexpressed grief, and how friendship can turn revenge into repentance, anger to empathy, and hurt into hopefulness.

Author’s Bio: Jerry’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Herald, The Gotham Center History Blog, and the 2010 Encyclopedia of New York City. His biography America’s First Freedom Rider: Elizabeth Jennings, Chester A. Arthur, and the Early Fight for Civil Rights was published in 2020. His short stories have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, BULL, Cowboy Jamboree, and Gravel Magazine as well as other journals. His historical novel, The Whaler’s Daughter was published this fall.

Read a TBR News Media review of the book by Jeffrey Sanzel here.

'The Whale's Daughter'

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

There is a long tradition of Man vs. Nature in young adult literature. The Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchet, and even Call of the Wild (which straddles the world of adult and young adult fiction) are examples of the genre. These novels reflect how the individual changes when interacting with greater forces. Jerry Mikorenda’s The Whaler’s Daughter (Regal House Publishing) smartly explores the world of whaling in a 1910 New South Whales community.

Author Jerry Mikorenda signs a book for a fan.

In a small Australian station, the whalers have joined forces with orcas to hunt whales. Savannah Dawson, a twelve-year-old living with her widowed father, dreams of working alongside him on the boats, joining the family’s long whaling history. Her gender strongly impedes her desire. In addition, she believes that the orcas caused the death of her two brothers, Eli and Asa.

The book seamlessly weaves Savannah’s two journeys. First, her realization that the orcas were not responsible for her sibling’s death. Second, her struggle for acceptance as a crew member. The author addresses both issues throughout, using detailed research to infuse the book with a vivid portrait of life on ship and shore, the challenges of the sea, and the camaraderie of the men themselves. He touches on superstitions and familial connections. In addition, he contextually integrates both regional dialect and nautical/whaling vocabulary. (There is also a helpful appendix of terms.)

Mikorenda sets the tone and pace with Savannah’s declaration: “I began my day as I always did, lugging those dreaded pots to the fire pit to make a bushman’s stew. Their big iron bellies slogged through the sand as if they were drunken sailors being dragged to Sunday service.” He presents a life of physical toil with a heroine who has a wry sense of observation. She begins as a cook and ends on the boat. 

Savannah’s palpable frustration seats in her knowledge of being a Dawson and the weight the name carries. But being female has relegated her to a second-class citizen. Apart from an unwanted suitor, she is almost unseen. So driven to claim her birthright, she boldly chops off her hair: “If Papa needed a boy for the boats, I’d meet him halfway.” The portrait is a girl coming to terms with maturity. She questions the father-daughter relationship. “How could things go so wrong between us when all I did was grow into who I am?” More telling is her realization that “Having your dreams trampled by someone who could help you realize them is worse than not having them at all.”

Savannah’s father, both distant and damaged, shows sensitivity in a revelation centering around a letter. His opening to Savannah is one of the most touching moments in the book. In addition, Mikorenda has populated the station with a blend of interesting and colorful sailors and their families. The locale is vibrant, with special note of the wonderfully eccentric Old Whalers and Seafarer’s Home, dubbed the Pelican House. 

Certainly, the hyper-articulate Calagun is the book’s unique character. Nicknamed “Figgie,” the aboriginal boy’s eloquence is a marvel: “Your perceptions of my intentions are somewhat askew.” A new oarsman in the Dawson crew, he becomes Savannah’s companion and champion. He serves as the gateway in her shift in perception. Through him, she sees the orcas anew and, subsequently, the world. Their interactions root in genuine respect and affection. “Some people are like empty bowls we can pour all our problems into, and Figgie was that way for me,” muses Savannah. 

There is remarkable enculturation as Savannah learns from Figgie’s life experiences. Their burgeoning closeness hews tightly to the book’s heart. Figgie’s spirituality, acquired from his people, confirms man’s connection to the world: “We don’t own the earth, the earth owns us … This is where we began; this is where our spirits return to be reborn as a rock, bird, or fig tree.” 

Figgie’s explanation of the balance of nature tempers Savannah’s anger with the orcas. Her newfound comprehension leads to an encounter with an orca bringing her to shore. Confusion leads to frustration, to awareness, to acceptance. Later, they witness the birth of an orca, furthering her understanding of the pod’s dynamic.

The novel offers a sense of the hard life in New Wales. It also gives a rich glimpse into aboriginal culture and beliefs. The blend matures Savannah in ways that life solely under her father would not give her.

The Whaler’s Daughter is an engaging novel. The plot is intense and eventful, and the language vivid and resonant. But the true strength lies in the growth of Savannah Dawson, a complex girl with challenging aspirations and the drive to see them fulfilled


A resident of Northport, Jerry Mikorenda’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Herald, The Gotham Center History Blog, and the 2010 Encyclopedia of New York City. His short stories have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, BULL, Cowboy Jamboree, and Gravel Magazine as well as other journals. His biography America’s First Freedom Rider: Elizabeth Jennings, Chester A. Arthur, and the Early Fight for Civil Rights was published in 2020. His latest, the coming-of-age historical fiction novel The Whaler’s Daughter, is perfect for middle-grade readers and is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

For more information, visit www.jerrymikorenda.com.