Whale's Tale Retold in Children's Book

United Press International

A whale that captured the attention of many Americans when he spent a month wandering around inland waterways is still getting a lot of attention, this time as the hero of a children's book.

The saga began in October when the 40-foot humpback whale took a sharp left turn from the Pacific Ocean at the Golden Gate Bridge and journeyed up the Sacramento River.

Quickly dubbed "Humphrey the Humpback," the whale spent four weeks splashing and diving and floating upstream before an armada of marine biologists drove him back to sea.

The wayward whale made good copy for newspapers then and now he's made good copy for a local publisher who has rushed out an "instant" illustrated children's book that has become a brisk seller.

The 24-page book, called, "Humphrey the Wayward Whale" and published two weeks ago by Heyday Books of Berkeley, Calif., has sold 15,000 copies.

Publisher Malcolm Margolin said he was struck by the mystery and suspense of the whale's erratic adventure and enlisted the help of husband-and-wife writing team Ernest Callenbach and Christine Leefeldt, as well as illustrator Carl Dennis Buell, to hurry into print.

"I wanted the kind of story that was deeply imbedded in the Bay Area and was the kind of book I grew up with back in Boston, where I read about ducks and all those wondrous creatures. Also, it's a great story revolving around an outpouring of passion and love by people who no longer have the contact with animals that we had in the old days."

Callenbach said no one knows why Humphrey swam inland. "My own private theory is Humphrey, a youngish whale, was just having a good time exploring and cavorting around."

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