|Elizabeth, queen of the seas|
Author: Cox, Lynne
The incredible story of Elizabeth, a real-life elephant seal who made her home in the Avon River in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: LG
Reading Level: 4.50
Points: .5 Quiz: 166179
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: K-2
Reading Level: 5.20
Points: 2.0 Quiz: 63715
Kirkus Reviews (04/15/14)
School Library Journal (+) (05/01/14)
Booklist (+) (05/15/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (07/14)
The Hornbook (00/07/14)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 05/01/2014 K-Gr 3—Cox opens this fact-based story on just the right note: "There was once a lovely elephant seal who lived in the city." A boy named Michael is fascinated with the marine mammal that chooses to live by or swim in the tranquil Avon River that passes by Christchurch's botanical garden. When the seal, named after the Queen of England, narrowly avoids death after relaxing on a warm city street, residents volunteer to move her to an elephant seal colony. After she makes her way back, they try two additional times to relocate her. Finally, knowing that city dwellers were secretly happy to see Elizabeth return to Christchurch, the city erects a "Slow. Elephant Seal Crossing" sign near her favorite sleeping place. The author generally avoids anthropomorphizing Elizabeth's motivation for continuing to return to the city by suggesting a few possibilities for readers to consider. Some basic facts about these huge marine mammals are woven into the highly approachable narrative, and a few paragraphs at the conclusion further explore more about their habits. A black-and-white photo of the famous seal sleeping on the pavement closes the book and reinforces its factual nature. Floca's gentle pen-and-ink and watercolor paintings perfectly capture Elizabeth's watery world. Double-page spreads nicely complement pages that feature smaller vignettes echoing the seal's rounded body. Especially effective is a page where Michael, who after nearly three months without his friend, wishes on the stars reflected in the river's water; the page turn reveals the seal's head poking through radiating rings of water while the boy shouts, "Welcome home, Elizabeth!" Children are likely to request multiple readings of this compelling told and lovingly illustrated true story.—Ellen Fader, formerly at Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 05/15/2014 *Starred Review* Floca, fresh from his Caldecott-winning Locomotive (2013), lends delicate sun-washed watercolors to this charming story of an unusual elephant seal. Cox, a long-distance swimmer best known for Grayson (2006), a nonfiction adult book about a whale, uses a light hand and a sweet, wondrous, yet unsentimental touch to relate how Elizabeth, fondly named by the townsfolk of Christchurch, New Zealand, prefers to reside in a warm river rather than the ocean. But when Elizabeth begins to sun herself on a busy asphalt road, she is deemed a potential danger and taken out to live with her brethren at sea. Miraculously, Elizabeth manages to return to her preferred home in the shallow Avon not once but three times, even though each time she is transported further and further afield. Cox anchors the story by imagining a small boy, Michael, enjoying Elizabeth and always waiting for her reappearance. Based on a true story—there is a photo of the real Elizabeth in the illuminating afterword—this is a superior addition to shelves of titles featuring wild animals. Floca manages to convey Elizabeth’s appeal by focusing on the way her expressive face plays off her tremendous bulk. Her content, happy smiles as she floats in a bucolic world of hazy riverbanks and blue skies will appeal to animal lovers of every age. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 07/01/2014 Animal stories are enduringly popular with youngsters, whether they’re tales of the lost and found or stories of loyal companionship, chronicles of dogs or yarns about cats. More unusual is a story about an animal who did exactly as she pleased and let the humans adjust to it; extremely unusual is a book not about furry dogs or cats but a huge wayward elephant seal. Such, however, is the tale of Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas. The charming Elizabeth is the star of this fact-based story about the legendary seal who inexplicably swam up the Avon River to make her home in the busy New Zealand city of Christchurch. Stretching her 2,000-pound body out comfortably across warm city streets, she became rather a traffic hazard, so although the residents—especially one small boy, Michael—delighted in their regal visitor (named for Queen Elizabeth II), they feared she’d get hurt or cause an accident. Attempts to relocate her—first to a nearby seal beach, then to a colony miles away, and finally to a location hundreds of miles from the city—always resulted in the determined elephant seal’s return, and after her final triumphant reappearance, the city decided to embrace their unusual resident and warn traffic around her. Cox, the famous long-distance swimmer, has an understandable affinity with a seagoing creature who swims tenaciously toward her goal. She writes with eager accessibility, keeping the story’s impact high by minimizing embroidery and focusing on key dramatic moments. She also possesses a storyteller’s rhythm (“Elizabeth looked at him with her dark brown eyes, snorted once, and once again”) and ear for the occasional picturesque detail (the towing boat heads out “past the silty, brownish-green river mouth into the cold, dark ocean”). The character of Michael, apparently a tribute to the Christchurch boy who (according to a note) told the author about Elizabeth, offers a fine identification point for young audiences who would similarly rejoice at a friendly local elephant seal. However, the book doesn’t present him as a hero who eclipses Elizabeth; instead, he’s narrative counterpoint to her, waiting and watching along with listeners while allowing her to remain the star. Floca’s loose-limbed line and watercolor illustrations have a touch of the informality of Robert Andrew Parker in their casual linework dabs and scrawls, and they move easily from spread to vignettes, seal to humans. Showstopping landscapes make Elizabeth’s attachment to the locale utterly understandable: verdant spreads of the tree-lined, reflection-dappled river drip with golden weeping willows; a luminous moon makes Elizabeth’s nocturnal path through the smoky water into a shimmering road; the populace of Christchurch throngs onto a lovely bridge (and down alongside it, and in boats within it) to witness the return of the prodigal elephant seal. Elizabeth herself is touched slightly with anthropomorphism in her contented if whiskery smile, but her massive gray bulk is absolutely believable, and there’s plenty of cheerful charm in the human Christchurch populace. The book’s sunny temperament, Southern setting, and focus on an animal who knows where she wants to be despite human intervention make it a neat inverted complement to Carnesi’s compelling and fact-based Little Dog Lost (BCCB 2/12). But maybe they’re not so different—they’re both stories of animals who, much to human delight and relief, finally found safe homes, and that’s the takeaway that’s going to matter to audiences. A note about elephant seals and a photo of the real Elizabeth are appended. (See p. 566 for publication information.) Deborah Stevenson, Editor - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.