Sea Otter Heroes – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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Title: Sea Otter Heroes- The Predators that Saved the Ecosystem

Author: Patricia Newman

Publisher: Millbrook Press, 2017

Ages: 8-12

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.

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17 Responses to Sea Otter Heroes – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Am surprised you haven’t reviewed this book sooner. What an interesting role sea otters play in maintaining the ecosystem. That’s new to me. I love stories like this and they are so important for kids who love the environment. Great reaview. I want to read this book!

  2. Joanna says:

    To be honest I only found out about it a couple of weeks ago. It is a fascinating read for young ecologists!

  3. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    Her books are always well written and informative. I hadn’t seen this one, so I’ve got to check it out. Will put this on our list for the school library. It reminds me of how wolves changed the ecosystem of Yellowstone. Thanks for highlighting!

  4. Being from the PNW, I love this book and any & all others on Sea Otters, Otters, or any animal, if I have to be honest. This is a beautiful book and a great review. Thanks for featuring it.

  5. Otters! There can never be enough books about them!

  6. Gabi Snyder says:

    Hurray for sea otters! I love these playful animals, too. Thanks for sharing this book that sounds like a great fit for my 9-year-old.

  7. Andrea Mack says:

    This looks so interesting for young animal lovers.

  8. Sea otters are so cool! This is a book my otter-loving kid would have adored!

  9. I love sea otters they are the cutest. Thanks for sharing Joanna. Nice choice.

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