It’s an accepted fact that elephant seals (who can weigh between 2,000 pounds for females and 8,000 for males) live their lives by and in the ocean, where they eat squid, cuttlefish and even small sharks. But as a young boy named Michael and the rest of the friendly folks in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, find out, there are always individuals—whether humans or seals—who prefer doing things exactly their own way.

One of these independent souls was a southern elephant seal that chose to leave the ocean, paddle up the warm Avon River and make her home in the city of Christchurch—on the soft grass, in the cool mud and even by the side of the road. So regal and lovely was the silvery brown seal that her friends decided to name her Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas.

When kindly humans, who (naturally) believed they knew best, attempted to haul Elizabeth back to her “natural” habitat, she simply put them right, returning not just once, but twice, to her adopted city. Eventually the townspeople erected a sign: “SLOW. Elephant Seal Crossing,” so that whenever Elizabeth chose to park herself near the road, she’d be safe from traffic.

Based on a true story (with a photo of the real Elizabeth) and graced by Caldecott-winning artist Brian Floca’s delightful illustrations, Lynne Cox’s heartwarming tale of one unusual elephant seal is sure to delight anyone who understands that following your heart almost always leads you to the very place you are meant to be.


Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is The Great Trouble.

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