Review: Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox

elizabeth queen of the seas

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca

This is the true story of Elizabeth, an elephant seal, who decided she wanted to live in the warm waters of the Avon River near the city of Christchurch in New Zealand.  People are happy to have Elizabeth in the river, often spending time watching her swim.  Then Elizabeth decides that her favorite place to sun is the middle of a two-lane road.  It is flat and warm and perfect, except for the dangers of the cars to both Elizabeth and the people.  So Elizabeth is towed out to sea, to live with the other elephant seals.  But Elizabeth returns.  She is removed to the sea over and over again, each time taking her farther away from Christchurch.  But she still finds her way back to those warm river waters. 

Cox, a famous long-distance, open-water swimmer, has written her first children’s book here.  One would never know that it is her first.  She writes with a grace and simplicity that make her book entirely readable but also poetic too.  She incorporates imagery that will help children understand Elizabeth better: “Moving up the soft shore like a giant inchworm.”  She also uses descriptive language to draw contrasts between the waters in the river and those in the cold sea. 

Floca, winner of the 2014 Caldecott Medal, uses his fine-line drawings to show the merry spirit of Elizabeth both when she is in the warm river waters and upon her amazing returns after being towed away.  Floca’s illustrations of Elizabeth on the warm road and her surprise but lack of alarm when the cars approach are beautifully done. 

A winning story that tells the story of one unique elephant seal and the town that she decided was her home.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.