Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas

Overview

World-renowned swimmer and bestselling author Lynne Cox and Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Brian Floca team up to bring us this inspiring story of an elephant seal who knew exactly where she belonged.

Here is 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. When Elizabeth decides to stretch out across a two-lane road, the citizens worry she might get hurt or cause traffic accidents, so...

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Overview

World-renowned swimmer and bestselling author Lynne Cox and Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Brian Floca team up to bring us this inspiring story of an elephant seal who knew exactly where she belonged.

Here is 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. When Elizabeth decides to stretch out across a two-lane road, the citizens worry she might get hurt or cause traffic accidents, so a group of volunteers tows her out to sea. But Elizabeth swims all the way back to Christchurch. The volunteers catch her again and again—each time towing her farther, even hundreds of miles away—but, still, Elizabeth finds her way back home.

Includes back matter with information about elephant seals.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Sarah Harrison Smith
Floca…brings cheerful bright yellows, blues and greens to his scenes of Christchurch, and his precise draftsmanship easily describes the city's architecture as well as the sweet-faced seal and her watery environs. Nature and urban life rarely intersect so incongruously: There's something inherently funny in seeing commuters gawp and swerve around the huge, regal mammal. Children may wonder, "Who has the right of way?" That's a very good question, which Cox, with great restraint, allows readers to ask—and maybe answer—for themselves.
Publishers Weekly
★ 02/24/2014
It’s tempting to call this a true fish-out-of-water story, except the eponymous heroine is actually an elephant seal, and she doesn’t see herself as displaced when she parks herself across a two-lane road in Christchurch, New Zealand. “Maybe she liked the feel of the warm firmness under her belly,” writes long-distance swimmer Cox (Swimming to Antarctica), “or maybe it was the sunshine fanning out across her back. But whatever it was, she decided to stay.” After many failed attempts to transport Elizabeth (who weighs “as much as fifteen Labrador retrievers”) to safer, more seal-friendly ground, her adoring but concerned public finally reaches a rapprochement with this sweet-faced force of nature; a photo of the real Elizabeth sprawled in her favorite spot appears in the afterword. The low-key text is beautifully amplified by Floca’s visual narrative, which takes readers from the busy downtown to distant, misty shores. The newly minted Caldecott winner may be best known for his more encyclopedic works, but he proves that whether the subject is trains or stubborn seals, he’s a master storyteller. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Martha Kaplan, Martha Kaplan Agency. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-31
Can you imagine living in a city with an enormous elephant seal in residence?Once upon a time in New Zealand, an elephant seal took up residence in the shallow Avon River and sunned herself in the parks and on the sides of the roads there. No matter how many times the humans roped her and towed her back to the open ocean, she would find her way back to the place she loved: the city of Christchurch. Cox, an open-water swimmer, must identify with the long swims that Elizabeth took in order to find her way home. Floca's watercolor-and-ink illustrations beautifully depict both the grandeur of the ocean and the architectural details of the bridges and buildings of Christchurch. Catching the sea at all times of the day, Floca treats readers to rare evening views of orange, darkening skies and water. Modern children will marvel at the freedom of Michael, the main character. He is a young boy alone: walking to school, playing by the beach and visiting the water at night to wish upon the stars. Though based on a true story, there are no bibliographic references for readers to follow to find further information about Elizabeth, nor is there any mention of when the story took place beyond dated-looking cars. A lovely if incomplete story of animals and humans living together. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-9)
From the Publisher
Publishers Weekly starred review, February 24, 2014
“The newly minted Caldecott winner may be best known for his more encyclopedic works, but he proves that whether the subject is trains or stubborn seals, he’s a master storyteller."

Publishers Weekly starred review, February 24, 2014
“Based on a true story—there is a photo of the real Elizabeth in the illuminating afterword—this is superior addition to shelves featuring wild animal personalities.“

School Library Journal starred review, May 2014
"Children are likely to request multiple readings of this compelling told and lovingly illustrated true story." 

The Bulletin starred review, July/August 2014:
"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." 

Children's Literature - Leona Illig
Elizabeth is an elephant seal who lives in New Zealand—not in the ocean surrounding New Zealand, but in the town of Christchurch. Based on a true story, this is the tale of how one seal won the hearts of the townspeople of Christchurch, who nicknamed her “Elizabeth” after their Queen. For some reason Elizabeth preferred the town to the ocean, and traffic problems soon developed after she began to sun herself on a two-lane road. The townspeople made repeated attempts to tow her out to sea, where they thought she might enjoy a better life. But Elizabeth had other ideas. Each time she was taken away, she returned to Christchurch, swimming incredible distances and overcoming many obstacles. Knowing that they were beaten, the citizens decided to accept the inevitable and welcome Elizabeth: they put up road signs to protect her and gathered an army of volunteers to watch over her. This beautiful story is told with love and imagination. It uses a young boy named Michael, who befriends Elizabeth, as a plot device, but he plays a minor role. The description of the elephant seal is outstanding, since it puts her height and weight in terms that children can understand. The pastels are simple and pretty. The book includes some facts about southern elephant seals and a photograph of the real Elizabeth, as well as the names of websites to visit for additional information. The author, a world-famous swimmer, includes a note of her own, explaining how she came to hear about Elizabeth while on a visit to New Zealand. These two outstanding swimmers, the author and the seal, combine to create an enchanting story about nature, perseverance, and compassion. Reviewer: Leona Illig; Ages 4 to 8.
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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375858888
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/13/2014
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 176,084
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD900L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.70 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

LYNNE COX is a legendary long-distance, open-water swimmer; the author of several books for adults, including South with the Sun, Grayson (a New York Times bestseller), and Swimming to Antartica (a New York Times bestseller); and a contributor to the New Yorker. She has set records for swimming all around the world, and in 2000 she was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame. Lynne first learned of Elizabeth's story when she traveled to New Zealand to swim across three lakes near Mount Cook. This is her first children's book.

BRIAN FLOCA is the Caldecott Medal–winning author/illustrator of Locomotive, which was also a Sibert Honor Book. He has written and illustrated many award-winning books for children, including Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, a Sibert Honor Book and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book; Lightship, a Sibert Honor Book and a Booklist Top of the List; and The Racecar Alphabet, an ALA Notable Book and a Kirkus Reviews Editors' Choice. He is also the illustrator of Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, a Sibert Honor Book and winner of the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.

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