“Well Old Mr. Johnson had troubles all his own. He had an old yellow cat that wouldn’t leave home. Tried everything he knew to do to get the cat to stay away. Even took him up to Canada and told him for to stay. But the cat came back the very next day. Thought he was a goner, but the cat came back “Cause he wouldn’t stay away”-- 19th century folk song
I couldn’t help but start humming “The Cat Came Back” as I read this truetale picture book about Elizabeth, a 1,200 pound elephant seal who inexplicably chose to inhabit the freshwater of a shallow river “flow[ing] through the heart of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.” Now, this was all fine and well until the surfboard-sized marine mammal decided to stretch out and take a snooze on a busy city street.
After tragedy was narrowly averted, volunteers made repeated attempts to relocate the errant elephant seal. They lassoed and towed her out to the ocean to “a sandy beach where other elephant seals lived.” But Elizabeth came back. They then towed Elizabeth “to a seal colony far, far away from the city.” But Elizabeth came back.
Eventually “the boat towed Elizabeth hundreds of miles from Christchurch before letting her go. And as the seal pulled herself out of the oceanwater onto some large rocks along the shore, the boat turned and headed back to Christchurch."
The story is told, in part, from the perspective of a boy in Christchurch who is enthralled by the elephant seal’s presence in the city and keeps hoping that she will return. And sure enough, Elizabeth did eventually return to Christchurch. And there she stayed.
“There was once a lovely elephant seal who lived in the city. And that is exactly where she belonged. Brian Floca’s pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations imbue Elizabeth with a sweet, goofy sense of character. I’d really like to have an elephant seal hand puppet to accompany this very fun book. Please drop me a line if you know about any.
48 pages 978-0-375-95888-5 Ages 5-9
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA