ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF THE SEAS by Lynne Cox is a sweet fictionalized picture book retelling of the true story of an elephant seal who seemed to prefer freshwater and city surroundings to the ocean despite the community attempting to help her back to the wild. The author’s note at the beginning of the story explains how Cox learned about Elizabeth and her adventures. For families concerned about how humans impact and respond to wild animals, this book will provide opportunities for discussions and different perspectives.
Cox presents a little boy, Michael, as a focus of the story after Elizabeth the sea lion has been introduced. His devotion to Elizabeth and his joy when he interacts with her is reflected by the community of Christchurch, New Zealand. Despite a beginning that depicts an idyllic existence in freshwater and parks surrounded by humans, the perils of city life for a wild animal are shown when Elizabeth chooses to warm herself in the road. After three attempts to bring Elizabeth to other sea lion colonies, which were followed by Elizabeth returning three times to Christchurch, the residents adapt by erecting a sign warning drivers of an Elephant Seal Crossing. Brian Flora’s illustrations personify Elizabeth without making her cartoonish, and the drawings help widen the meaning of the text with a variety of scenes and personalities detailed.
While the book is heartwarming and gives what is meant to be a happy ending with Elizabeth ending up “exactly where she belonged,” it lightens some of the true-to-life events for a younger audience. Families who focus on animal welfare will have opportunities to discuss how humans attempted to assist Elizabeth and they can also compare the elephant seals in the wild versus Elizabeth’s life in the city. The end of the book also has a page of facts about elephant seals to further discussion and research.
Overall, ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF THE SEAS is a delight to read with children.