Floating in the Avon River through the center of beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand is not typical elephant seal behavior. Elephant seals usually prefer beaches by the ocean farther from humans. There are exceptions. While traveling in New Zealand years ago, author Lynne Cox heard an unusual story about a lone female seal who made Christchurch's lazy river her home and won the love of its citizens by her refusal live anywhere else. With illustrations by Brian Floca, Cox now tells the story in her children's picture book Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas.
The people of Christchurch named the seal Elizabeth because they thought her regal in demeanor, like their queen. Not everyone, however, agreed that the Avon River was a good place for an elephant seal, especially a seal who would climb out and take naps in a busy street. For the safety of all, well-meaning officials resolved to remove her from the city, but Elizabeth refused to relocate.
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas is a charming story that is even more touching to those who know of the city's recent earthquakes. Floca's watercolor illustrations depict a happy time, including in the background buildings that have since been destroyed. The book has a happy ending, and I wish the same for the city.
Cox, Lynne. Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas. Schwartz and Wade Books, 2014. ISBN 9780375958885.