Elizabeth Queen of the Seas

 
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Schwartz and Wade May 2014 (Random House)

“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

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