By: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Shennen Bersani
Publisher: Sylan Dell Publishing
Publication Date: August 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: August 11, 2010
A young sea lion cautiously peered through the grate of a pink dog crate secured into the back of a pickup. Pacific waves gently lapped the rocky shores of the California coast. Gulls flew overhead as a pelican closely watched as the truck began its journey to The Marine Mammal Center. Astro, an orphaned Steller sea lion who weighed a mere 39 pounds, would soon find himself nestled into a new volunteer human family. Droplets of his "special smoothie made from ground herring, salmon oil, and whipping cream," from the nipple of a baby bottle dribbled from his mouth. His friends nurtured Astro until it was time to head back into the wild with other Steller sea lions in the ocean seas.
A crew from the Center gathered at the shore to release him, but before he left his crate "a satellite tag was attached to Astro's back so The Marine Mammal Center would be able to track his travels in the ocean." Back on the very beach he was found, the waves embraced his body, but frightened of the unknown he soon discovered that ocean waves were not to his liking. Not one iota. Astro made friends with some elephant seals, but would not venture back into the sea. Back to the center he went. They tried releasing him with eight seal pals from the Center, but no go. He hung on for dear life until gravity drew him into the sea. Ten days later guess what Astro did? He showed up on a beach near The Marine Mammal Center. How could they ever get him to go back to the sea where he belonged? Was he going to keep coming back to the Center? How could they break his attachment to people?
This is an amazing story of a young Stellar sea lion, Astro, who much preferred his summer nights in Sausalito to surfing the ocean waves. I was simply fascinated by Astro's story, who quickly brought to mind André the seal who was a denizen of the East coast. The highly realistic photo-like artwork was tremendously appealing. Many people do know that Astro now resides in Mystic, Connecticut and would love for you to visit him. The back of this book, which can be used in the homeschool or classroom setting, includes additional information about the species, a section concerning their threatened and endangered status, a map activity, life cycle information, a section describing how to differentiate between a sea lion and a seal, and access to additional web sites through the publisher's web site. I couldn't resist listening to Sausalito Summernight as I read about this little guy, a cutie you are definitely going to fall in love with!
Quill says: This beautifully written story about Astro, a Stellar sea lion, is a story that will be treasured in many households for years to come!