When author James Otis Thach visited third graders at the Lower School, he started a small research revolution.
Thach recently read aloud his most recent book, The Seal Pup, to the students and told them that the inspiration behind the picture book remains, in part, a mystery. Ten years ago Thach was at a party when he was drawn to a documentary on TV about a white shark preying on seals. In the film, a baby seal bravely provoked the shark while the other seals swam to safety. Thach said he was so mesmerized by the documentary that he started penning The Seal Pup.
The mystery? Since that party Thach has been unable to locate the documentary; he has never known the name of the film that inspired his book.
Thach’s visit enhanced already important lessons about research. LS Librarian Angela Smith says the third graders have been learning about web resources to search online for the lost documentary as an ongoing study of digital citizenship. Over the past few years, Smith and Jenni Voorhees, LS director of academic technology, have created integrated lessons that involve online versus print research. Most recently, the children have studied fiction chapter books that use technology in the plot to further the story line. The Seal Pup was another way for students to recognize the link between libraries and technology.
That engagement with his readers is one of the rewards of being a children’s book author, Thach said. Written in verse, The Seal Pup is long—125 pages—making the book ideal to be read aloud by adults. (It also features beautiful, full-page illustrations by Warren Cutler.)
Growing up, Thach attended storytelling events with his mother, a teacher and storyteller. “I try to recreate that now,” he said. “But I was a reluctant reader. I was really slow, and it was hard for me to sit still. But I love stories and I love movies, so I wanted to create a book that felt like a movie.”
Even if the movie doesn’t yet have a name.
The Seal Pup (Bowrider Press, 2010) can be borrowed from the Lower School Library.