Walker Harvey, Jeanne. (2010). Astro the steller sea lion. Mount Pleasant, SC: Sylvan Dell Publishing. ISBN 978-1607180760. Ages 8 and under.
Publisher’s description: Astro is a stellar Steller sea lion! Only a few days old when found orphaned, he is cared for and raised at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. When big enough to be released to the wild where he needs to be, he has other plans! Just like a lost dog finding his way home, Astro keeps swimming back towards the Center, crossing miles of open ocean water to do so. After several attempts, people realize that Astro is too accustomed to humans and will just keep coming back. Based on real events, readers follow Astro through some of his travels that have now taken him across the U.S. to his current home at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.
Yes, I usually review fiction not non-fiction. And I review books for ages 9 and up because it is more difficult to find books exemplifying good character in books for older kids. However, I also love sea lions, and animals, and was intrigued by a book just a bit different than a typical “little kids” book.
Astro’s story is heartwarming and the illustrations are fabulous. The story helps us to understand why his life events turned out as it did, and yet it is neither boring nor drawn out. The story is captivating, emotions shine through both words and pictures, and the young reader will not realize they are learning while reading (parents will like it too!). Making this book even more special is the extra information provided about sea lions in the back of the book with fun activities that include a great map. Reflecting back up on my daughter’s reactions to books when she was age 5-8, she would have eaten this one up. It is a story the child will want to re-read over and over again, keep on their bookshelf forever, and those interested in activities or learning will enjoy the extras packaged within it.
Books like Astro the Steller Sea Lion are important to a child’s moral formation. The people in the story deal with difficult issues of how to best help Astro. As the entire book is focused on providing loving care as best possible to God’s creation, it shows children how they can do the same and helps them develop empathy for others. They learn to see their role in the world as caretaker, through which they innately connect with the sacred around them.
“Love’s greatest gift is its ability to make everything it touches sacred. “ (Barbara De Angelis)
From that perspective, it is a timely choice for summer reading and road trips too; one the entire family can enjoy!
For class or homeschool use, the publisher provides extensive teaching activities at http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com/bookpage.php?id=Astro (see right side box). Quizzes are available too. Be sure to pick up your copy of Astro the Steller Sea Lion through our bookstore! Don’t forget to see our character education reviews at Litland.com’s main website too! www.litland.com