Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox
with Illustrations by Brian Floca
Enchants, Educates and Entertains!
★ Publishers Weekly starred review,
“The low-key text is beautifully amplified by Floca’s visual narrative, which takes readers from the busy downtown to distant, misty shores.”
Let’s head down under for a tale inspired by the true story of an elephant seal who, rather than live amongst her fellow seals, chose to make her home in the Avon River of Christchurch in New Zealand’s South Island.
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas (Schwartz & Wade Books, $17.99, Ages 4-8), by champion swimmer and bestselling author Lynne Cox, is one of those feel-good stories that will bring a smile to readers’ faces not only because of its cheerful images and happy ending, but because of the care one community showed to a determined mammal. Pair these positives and the easy-to-read prose with 2014 Caldecott Medal winner Brian Floca’s just perfect pen, ink and watercolor artwork and you’ve got a winning combination. And like the Avon River where much of the story’s action takes place, Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas flows in a most delightful direction.
In an Author’s Note in the beginning of the book, we learn how, many years ago, before heading home to California from Christchurch, Cox met a boy called Michael and his sister Maggie. They shared the story of this eight foot long, 2000 plus pound animal who preferred the coziness of the Avon’s “sweet shallow waters” to the open sea. What comes next is amazing.
When Elizabeth made herself comfortable one day by stretching out across the two-lane road in the city center, things got dangerous. Brakes screeched and cars veered off the road to avoid hitting Elizabeth. Soon citizen grew alarmed, not just for the safety of the seal, but for drivers who might cause accidents trying not to kill the massive mammal. Even three attempts to relocate Elizabeth far from the Avon River proved futile. She kept returning. Something about this river and this city spoke to her.
The people of Christchurch, including Michael who, in addition to one very charming elephant seal, is the other main character in this picture book, were so enamored with the mammal that they “put up a sign on the road where she liked to sleep.”
And do you know what happened next? Elizabeth became a city slicker!
The back matter includes interesting facts about elephant seals including how much a bull (the male) can weigh, how long they can remain under water before coming up for air, a black and white photo of the real Elizabeth, and details about a new important role elephant seals are playing in science with their ability to explore the oceans’ depths.
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel