Children’s Non-Fiction Reviews: Orca Rescue! & The Strangest Thing in the Sea

Two fantastic children’s non-fiction books on the review docket today! Courtesy of lovely friends at Kids Can Press, I have the pleasure of talking about: Orca Rescue! The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer by Donna Sandstrom, illustrated by Sarah Burwash, and The Strangest Thing in the Sea (And Other Curious Creatures of the Deep) by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler. Happy reading!

Donna Sandstrom and Sarah Burwash’s Orca Rescue! The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer is a compelling and enlightening children’s non-fiction title documenting the touch-and-go rescue of a lost young orca. Through the inviting narration of Donna Sandstrom, founder and leader of The Whale Trail, and a citizen organizer behind Springer’s rescue, readers are taken along for a close look at an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime event. In 2002, whale researcher Mark Sears is called out to explore the reported sighting of a lone young orca in the Puget Sound area. A very strange report indeed as orcas live in pods and stay with their mothers for their entire lives. Who was this young orca, why was she alone, and could anything be done to help her? Calls to researchers, scientists, and government organizations went out and remarkable findings were put together- including results detailing the young orca’s matriline all the way back to her great-grandmother! Sandstorm offers readers to join her on the gripping journey that follows the discovery of the little orca named Springer: from how painstaking, laborious, joyful the entire process was; how essential the welcome and knowledge of First Nations communities and respective elders were to the process; to how deeply citizen goodwill became central to Springer’s rescue and reunion; and how crucial a solid, working relationships between key organizations of the United States and Canada were to making this the first ever successful orca rescue and reunion in history. Sanstrom’s narrative is nicely paired with informational asides- orca facts and short histories behind such topics as whales in captivity, their culture, a look at Keiko the whale, and much, much more. Sarah Burwash’s watercolour illustrations are gentle, soothingly calm, and provide readers lovely renderings of orcas (whether in close up, in pods, in movement, or in rehabilitation), and of capturing key moments in Sandstrom’s story. For readers interested in exploring real-life animal rescue tellings, or learning fascinating information about orcas, their families, and their behaviours, this is a stellar pick. For readers who have already explored and enjoyed picture book titles such as Dolphin SOS, Birdsong, Sonya’s Chickens, or The Honeybee, and are ready to discover lengthier (but still illustrated) non-fiction, Orca Rescue! perfectly fits the bill. Extras: Back matter includes short sections on human-caused threats to whales and dolphins; avenues to take action and help; suggestions for further reading; a glossary of terms; and more.

For readers endlessly fascinated by sea creatures peculiar and wondrous, Rachel Poliquin and Byron Eggenschwiler’s The Strangest Thing in the Sea (And Other Curious Creatures of the Deep) is recommended reading. An interactive non-fiction title that poses a lyrical (and illustrative!) hint to readers and provides the answer(s) with a full-page open-the-flap reveal, Poliquin and Eggenschwiler’s title is a very cool, skillfully presented read. For every creature featured in Poliquin and Eggenschwiler’s book, readers are treated to an introductory clue and fictitious representation of the animal to be revealed. For example (minor book spoilers here!), before the reveal of a hairy frogfish, readers see an unimpressed rock- complete with a red coif and pink bow!- balancing on tiny sneakers saying: ”I look like a tiptoeing/rock wearing a wig./I even have a bow in my hair, sort of. Am I the strangest thing in the sea?”. Upon opening the flap, readers are treated to an illustration of the actual creature, with a rundown of how the creature subsists, any tricks or sneaky skills they might have, what their key features are, as well as concise notes about their size, prey, habitats, and depth (of typical location). The Strangest Thing in the Sea follows creature to creature- each so striking, unusual and respectively stupendous- that the build up and promise of revealing the strangest creature is surprising and pays off rather well! (And no spoilers here, I promise). Byron Eggenschswiler (who was very recently featured for the beautiful Song for the Snow, with Jon-Erik Lappano!) so wonderfully captures the moodier, murkier feel of the deep sea, with an appropriately atmospheric palette full of greys, browns, greens, with pops of ghostly white and blood red. The interplay between Poliquin’s combination of playful and strictly informational text with Eggenschwiler’s fantastical, shadowy, and factual illustrations are a strong pairing. For readers who have loved non-fiction books such as Jess Keating and David DeGrand’s engrossing The World of Weird Animals, Rachel Poliquin and Kathryn Durst’s How to Promenade with a Python (and Not Get Eaten) (which is so clever and funny!), or any number of great books by the award-winning team of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, The Strangest Thing in the Sea is an excellent pick.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Kids Can Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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