What child hasn’t wanted to bring home an abandoned or injured animal? In my family, it was squirrels and baby birds. In Saving Sammy, an early chapter book by Canadian Eric Walters, illustrated by Alaskan artist Amy Meissner, the young heroine rescues something more unlikely — a baby beaver!
According to the Author’s Note, Saving Sammy is based on a true story about a family who found a stranded young beaver following a flood. The tale is straightforward and uncomplicated, with one main character (Morgan), her parents, two family dogs, and of course, their unexpected guest. The situation — what to do with a lost baby beaver? — is interesting enough on its own to keep reading. But Meissner’s fourteen black-and-white illustrations over eight chapters add elements of richness and momentum to this otherwise quiet story — as well as an irresistible dose of animal cuteness.
Feelings of movement and fluidity permeate her drawings, which focus primarily on interactions between characters. Details give the viewer an impression of moments captured within a context of larger scenes. Each illustration is well-chosen to further the plot and reenforce the overall theme of caring.
Saving Sammy also highlights the work of the Northern Lights Wildlife Society, a real-life animal rescue charity operating in Smithers, British Columbia. The story honors the heart of a child, or any animal lover, determined to save a wounded wild creature. Parental warning: after reading Saving Sammy, your kids may be combing the woods in search of animals in need! But rest assured that the story also drives home the importance of caring for wild creatures in an appropriate setting.
Saving Sammy was published in 2014 by Orca Book Publishers, a Canadian company based in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s the fifth and most recent title to be illustrated by Meissner in their Orca Echoes series of 64-page early chapter books for younger readers.
The book was recently shortlisted for the Green Earth Book Award. Congratulations! It's always a joy to see well-executed books that connect kids with nature in positive and realistic ways.
For an interesting comparison of the artist's earlier and final drawings for the cover of Saving Sammy, visit Amy's blog.