Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Astro the Steller Sea Lion

Jeanne Harvey; Illustrations by Shennen Bersani

Steller Sea Lions are a threatened species that live in the northern Pacific.  Stellar means outstanding, immense or a star performer. Astro fits both of these definitions, so he's actually a stellar Steller sea lion! This is a very real story about a sea lion rescue that has been beautifully illustrated and adapted into a picture book.   

A scientist found young Astro, separated from his mother, on an island off the coast of California. He was much too young (he still had part of his umbilical cord attached) to survive alone, so he became a pampered guest at The Marine Mammal Center. There he was nursed back to health, literally, fed from a baby bottle filled with a herring/salmon oil/whipped cream smoothie.  I know, blech, but not for a sea lion.

When Astro reached ten months of age, he was returned to the ocean. Unfortunately, nobody asked Astro's thoughts about this plan. After each release, of which there were several, he doggedly managed to find his way back to the Center. His friends there were terribly sad when they realized he had been rescued too young and had grown attached to humans. Because Astro would be unable to adapt to the wild, a permanent home was found for him at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.   

The illustrations in this book are so very realistic that I had to study them quite closely before I was sure they really were drawings and not photographs. I know that seems dim-witted, but they really are that good.  This is a wonderful story of how humans go the distance to help animals and ensure they are (or in this case, are not) able to survive on their own after human intervention.  The last four pages of the book comprise an educational section with great technical information on Steller Sea Lions, including maps and a life cycle.  I like that this an interesting story that is wrapped up with some useful methods of teaching children more about this species - very useful!    

Watch a short video to see the real Astro in action at his permanent home.  He looks pretty content, doesn't he?  

Review copy provided by Sylvan Dell Publishing. 

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