Title: Sea Otter Heroes- The Predators that Saved the Ecosystem
Author: Patricia Newman
Publisher: Millbrook Press, 2017
Themes: sea otters, seagrass, marine habitats, ecology, Elkhorn Slough, trophic cascade
Creative Nonfiction – 56 pages
What does a playful sea otter have to do with flowering seagrass that grows underwater?
Marine biologist Brent Hughes didn’t think sea otters and sea grass had much in common. But his research at Elkhorn Slough, an estuary on Monterey Bay in northern California, revealed a new and surprising connection between the two. The scientist expected this estuary to be overrun with algae due to the fertilizer runoff from surrounding fields. But it wasn’t. Why?
Sea Otter Heroes looks at trophic cascade (cause and effect relationships within a food chain) and how it affects an ecosystem.
Why I like this book:
Sea otters are some of my favorite animals so of course I wanted to know about their heroic adventures. This book reveals the fascinating point that scientists for a long time thought of the bottom of the ecosystem as being the lynch pin Hughes’ research shows in this ecosystem the reverse is the true–the top predator is the one who makes the entire ecosystem work! I love theories turned on end.
This narrative nonfiction about nature, while being lengthy and quite detailed, is written with great storytelling skill and is very readable. It will appeal mostly to keen young scientists, but I think even those with slim interest at the start, will want to know the discovery. Despite the text density, there’s plenty of white space, charts, sidebars, and graphs, as well as beautiful full-color photos.
Patricia Newman’s books are made for classrooms. This text includes not only the cause-effect relationship between otters and sea grass, but also has experiments, information about careers, a glossary, and an afterword about rethinking our relationship with nature giving the reader real ways they can make a difference. This book would be perfect to use in a life science unit or class.
Students will be able to extrapolate from the text how the scientific process works by forming hypotheses and testing them in a small scale and then in a larger environment.
On the Lerner Publishing there is access to free educational resources for the book that can easily be used in the classroom.
Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.