I didn’t love Pup the Sea Otter, by Jonathan London (West Winds Press) as much as I wanted to, perhaps because I felt it left many unanswered questions. While it references Pup being wrapped in kelp so he doesn’t float away, it doesn’t describe how this is done. It mentions a pocket under the the otter’s forearm, but doesn’t describe what exactly that is–and because this is intended for young, literal thinkers, I felt this was also warranted. Finally, at 8 months old, Pup seems to miraculously go from living with his mother to other males, with no explanation as to how or why.
Other places, I found the text charming and child-appropriate “He’s too buoyant and pops back up like a rubber duck!”
London’s son, Sean, did a wonderful job with the illustrations. Pup is portrayed as a cutie-pie with kid appeal. The colors are vibrant. I wish we were shown a “raft” of other mothers and pups, so we could know what that is like.
Back matter delves into the value of and threats to sea otters, but overall this book feels thin. While the Author’s Note mentions pollution being the biggest current threat to sea otters, none of that comes out in the story. No mention is made of sea otters as keystone species. Despite these things, skilled interpreters could use this book as a jumping off point when engaging children about these animals.
Grades Pre-K – 3