Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HARP SEAL PUPS by Downs Matthews


by Downs Matthews & photographed by Dan Guravich

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-689-80014-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 An Arctic ice slab seems an especially cold delivery table, but for baby harp seals, it's also their crib and their nursery. As in other cooperative efforts by Matthews and Guravich (Wetlands, 1994, etc.), the full-color photographs and text jointly convey information about the life-cycle of the harp seal. The babies must put on weight quickly, for their layer of blubber protects them from the sub-zero temperatures. After about 25 days, the seals are on their own; without their parents' help they have to learn first to swim, and then to hunt. The large photos show details mentioned in the text: the harp-shaped patterns on the adult seal's fur (for which the seals are named) and their sharp nails, used to climb up out of the water. The book will be useful for reports, but doesn't pander to that function. There is no mention of the cruel practice of hunting baby seals, which was a major issue in the 1970s and '80s. Matthews names walruses, killer whales, and sharks as the seals' enemies, but it's a glaring omission not to include humans on the list. (map) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)