I’ve got a second-grade class full of animal lovers this year, so I knew I’d need to share The Spirit of Springer: The Real-Life Rescue of an Orphaned Orca with them when it crossed my desk. In text by Amanda Abler and detailed illustrations by Levi Hastings, we learn the uplifting story of Springer, an orca who turned up in Puget Sound near Seattle, far away from any other orca pods. Scientists develop a plan to befriend and capture Springer, nurse her back to health, find her an orca pod to join, and return her to the wild. This had never been done before!
This text is longer than what I would usually read to second graders, so we broke it up over two days. But stretching it out only heightened the suspense. My students were completely absorbed by Springer’s story and couldn’t wait to find out the ending. “What’s going to happen?!” “Don’t stop!” they begged when we had to pause for wellness class.
There are many text features in this nonfiction narrative that older students would appreciate as well, like the dates that help keep track of the timeline and maps that explain Springer’s path along the coast. My students pointed out how helpful the illustrations were. For example, they had a hard time understanding the “sling” scientists used to capture Springer, but used Hasting’s detailed drawing to understand how it was done.
After reading the story through, my seven and eight year olds were so invested in this orca! They described the story as an emotional roller coaster: “First it was sad, then it was happy, then I was scared, then I was happy again!” They all agreed that they liked the story so much because Springer ended up okay and healthy in the end.
We then found a video on YouTube that described Springer’s rescue called Orphan Orca: Saving Springer. This brought Springer’s story to life even more and the students enjoyed looking at the differences between the book and the video, noticing how Amanda Abler and Levi Hastings explained the real events through words and pictures.
The Spirit of Springer would make a great addition to your nonfiction read aloud library!