________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 15. . . .December 15, 2017


The Seal Garden. (My Great Bear Rainforest).

Ian McAllister & Nicholas Read.
Victoria, BC: Orca, March, 2018.
32 pp., hc., pdf & epub., $19.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1267-3 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1268-0 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1269-7 (epub).

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Sometimes there are hundreds of marine mammals in a seal garden. They feed on the fish, bob like corks on the ocean’s surface and wrap themselves in long copper-colored seaweed called kelp for afternoon naps.

Harbor seals laze in the middle of the seal garden while the much-larger California and Steller sea lions lounge on the outside rocks just above the pounding waves. Sea otters take shelter in the thick kelp forest too.


The Seal Garden is a third book in the series for young readers, “My Great Bear Rainforest”, by the team of Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read. It adds another dimension to the entertaining presentations about wildlife in BC’s north and central coastal community. While the previous titles described land based inhabitants (bears, wolves), this book focuses on marine mammals and especially on the undersea environment that shelters them. With the main threats being Pacific storms and hungry orcas, the text and photos show the reader how seals, sea otters and fish hide within the kelp forests. The arrangements of rocks that create these ‘seal gardens’ protect larger sea lions or elephant seals that use the rocks above the waves to escape danger.

      The expert photography in these books is the perfect medium to tell the stories of survival in this unique wild place. Close-up shots of stormy seas, crowds of seals swimming through the waving kelp, or elephant seals resting on the rocks give young readers a clear sense of the habitat. In the second half of the book, as the storm subsides, images of hunting orcas take over. Now the reader can see how the deadly game might be played out if the seals leave their protective garden. Both predator and prey must use their instincts to outwit one another if all are to thrive. But the lesson is presented in a gentle way for the target audience: “It’s the way of life... where every animal, no matter how big or small, has a place to live and a role to play.”

      The factual language with straightforward delivery and some longer sentences raise the reading level of this title above that of the previous one in the series, A Bear’s Life even though they are similarly targeted. However, the books in the “My Great Bear Rainforest” series can effectively be shared with younger listeners who will find the photos captivating and whose curiosity will be aroused by the infrequently seen settings.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

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