Book review: Pup 681: A Sea Otter Rescue Story, by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Ashley Crowley

Reidy, Jean. Pup 681: A Sea Otter Rescue Story. Illustrated by Ashley Crowley. Henry Holt and Company, 2019. ISBN 9781250114501. Unpaged.  P6Q6

A sea otter pup has washed up on the shore, and she is hungry, cold, and lonely. Found by a girl on a surfboard, wearing an Aquarium Staff hat, the otter is taken to an aquarium to be cared for. The text strives to come across from the otter pup’s point of view, but often feels odd. For instance, when the sea pup is feeling afraid and alone she wonders if the sun will leave her too. Also, certain pictures left me uncertain of the story line. For instance, on one double page spread the pup is being rescued by the surfer in the Aquarium Staff hat, the next page shows a VW Bus on the road, passing a sign that says “Aquarium 2,000 miles”, turn the page once more and they are on the steps of a large aquarium. I felt like more of the story needed to be portrayed here. The illustrations of the otter, in soft pastels, lacked the details that make otters so cute. At the end of the story the true story that the book is based on is told. Maybe if that had been at the front of the book the story would have come together more for me.

Verdict: The true story behind the book is good, but the narration and the illustrations could be improved. Children who have visited aquariums will recognize the pictures, including the end papers, and animal lovers will appreciate the backstory.

June 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Rescuing Rialto: A Baby Sea Otter’s Story, by Lynda V. Mapes, photographs by Alan Berner

Mapes, Lynda V. Rescuing Rialto: A Baby Sea Otter’s Story. Photo. By Alan Berner. Roaring Brook, 2019. Unp. $18.99. ISBN 978-1-250-14764-6. Ages 7-10. P8Q8

“The baby sea otter was hungry.” That is how Mapes begins her odyssey following the rescue of the infant stranded alone on Rialto Beach in northern Washington. As Mapes chronicles the steps taken to bring Rialto back to health, care for his as he grows, and train him for his future to be with other orphaned baby otters at Vancouver Aquarium, she describes otters’ characteristics, characteristics, and nature. Photographs contribute to the text in their depictions of staff members working with Rialto.

Verdict: Rialto’s story is lively, and the photographs are captivating. An advantage of the book is the use of photographs instead of illustrations that give a sense of reality to Rialto and his needs that creates empathy for this endangered species.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem, by Patricia Newman

Newman, Patricia. Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem. Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing, 2017. $31.99.  ISBN 9781512426311. 56 pages. Includes source notes, glossary, selected bibliography, “More you ‘otter’ read and watch (books and websites), and index.  Ages 8-14. P8Q9

Water pollution from fertilizer runoff causes algae overgrowth and usually results in the death of seagrass in estuaries.  However, in California’s Elkhorn Slough, one of the world’s most nutrient-polluted estuaries, the seagrass is thick and healthy.  Marine biologist Brent Hughes’ careful research into the ecology of Elkhorn Slough found an unexpected relationship between the reintroduction of sea otters and healthy sea grass.  As the otters ate the crabs, the sea hares—a type of small sea slug—survived to eat the algae that had been killing the sea grass, creating a trophic cascade in which a top predator introduced into an ecosystem changes the entire system, often in unexpected ways.

Verdict: This is a well-organized depiction of the scientific process in the field, from observation to hypothesis to experimentation and revision of the thesis.  Highly recommended for those collections needing STEM materials, especially elementary and middle school libraries and classroom collections, as well as public libraries.

September 2017 review by Jane Cothron.