The Seal Pup

James Otis Thach, Author, Warren Cutler, Illustrator
James Otis Thach, illus. by Warren Cutler, Bowrider Press (www.thesealpup.com), $24.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-9825663-0-5
Reviewed on: 12/20/2010
Release date: 01/01/2010
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Based on a true story, Thach's (The Tickle Monster Is Coming!) extended narrative poem, composed entirely of rhymed couplets, has a pleasant lilt and an unfaltering rhythm. On an island in the Bering Sea, a seal pup's mother contemplates the annual migration south: "Autumn came, and then it was his mother's turn to fret,/ For soon they would be leaving, and he wasn't ready yet." In the poem's darkest passage, she sets out, carrying the pup in her mouth, and falls prey to a shark. Landing on an ice floe, the pup is joined by penguins who've escaped from the zoo—the first of several supportive creatures he encounters. Thach's text is superimposed on Cutler's sprawling paintings; his subtly shaded seascapes outshine sometimes cartoonish depictions of the animals themselves. The author adds dashes of humor to the verse: when the seal tries to befriend a rubber duck that fell off a cargo ship, "The bird withdrew and turned away, its smile quite unchanged,/ As if too haughty—or too dim—to join in the exchange." The overlong journey is likely to be tackled over multiple readings. Ages 6–12.
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