Posted by: jamesthach | January 17, 2009

The Inspiration

The story of The Seal Pup was inspired by a documentary I saw in (I believe) April of 2001.  I was at a friend’s birthday party.  It was a lively party– everyone dancing and having a ball. In the middle of this was a television, and on the television were seals. I love seals, so I sat down and started to watch…

All these seals were swimming in the water, when suddenly, a great white shark swam up.  The seals raced from the water as fast as they could, except for three seals. The shark had managed to cut them off from the land, and it looked like curtains for them. The seals on land were barking at the shark– but that was all they could do.

Then one little seal dove into the water, swam out to the shark– right up to its head!– and starting swimming in slow spirals around its head. That little seal got the full attention of the shark, swimming around its head, just outside of its bite range. And so it slowly turned that shark around, and led it out to sea, away from the others.

As I live and breathe, this really happened. (And anyone who can track down that documentary will get the first copy of the book.)

Anyway, that real-life act of heroism was what led me to write the story of that little seal, and what led him to that incredible feat. And what happened afterward.



  1. this is alyssa lambert from harris elementary school in Misouri St. Chariles. 2010 12 October,
    In Mrs. Schultz Class. I Know Where you Can Find A Seal Pups Its In Marine Mammal Center in Marin County, CA San Francisco. Im ard ArounLook Really Hd The Enternet Thats All i could Finf. I HOPE I WIN THAT CAME CORTER UNDER.

    • That a wonderful suggestion, Alyssa! I know the Marine Mammal Center well– I have visited there, and they are in fact carrying the book there. So I’m a big fan. But when I asked them about the documentary, no one there had heard of it. (That was a few years ago, so maybe now there’s someone there who has. I’d ask them myself, but I don’t wait to steal your camcorder.)

      Happy hunting!


  2. We are excited to meet with you through video conference today! We loved how a TV show inspired you to write The Seal Pup.

    • Thank you, Ms. Jackson! It was a pleasure to be able to share the story with you, and I appreciated your questions. I’m also hoping you or one of your students can track down that original film. (I always root for the home team.)

      Warm wishes to you all,


  3. <<>> I think I found a website of the people who made the documentary. It is an interview with the creators, but somewhere there I think you may find where the documentary is. I hope this is correct!
    LINK =

  4. More info: I looked it up more and from what I read it says that the documentary is called “Shark Pod” and was completed in 1997.

    • Julie, I apologize for the long delay in responding! (The sad truth is, I barely understand how this “blog” thing works, and just found your message a moment ago. So embarrassing!) I am intrigued by your finding. Certainly, Ron and Valerie Taylor are two of the great shark filmmakers of all time. I’ve never seen “Shark Pod”– have you been able to track down? And if so, does it have a seal circling a shark?

      Please respond to me here, or at “”. And thanks for your efforts.



  5. James, this book is absolutely beautiful. I’m glad you found such a great illustrator, and I am absolutely hooked from your first chapter video. I remember you telling us all about this when you visited us in DC a few years ago, and I’m so glad it has come to fruition. Rad and I will have to get a copy for little Radcliffe, who really loves books with excellent poetry. You have such a gift! Thank you for sharing it with the world!
    Susannah (Rad’s wife)

    • Thank you, Susannah! That is so wonderful to hear. I had such a great time visiting with you then. I’ll be out there again at the end of the month, and would love to see you (and your little ones) again. I’ll email you all the details.
      😉 James

  6. Hi James. I just stumbled on your website while I was looking for a documentary about a seal pup I saw before 2000. I actually knew what I thought was the name but I cannot find it. I think it was titled ‘summer with celic’. Are you familiar with this? My son was so mesmerized by that documentary (and he was only 3!) that I wanted to re-share it with him and his younger siblings! I can’t wait to go buy your book! I’m going to look for it this weekend!

    • Thanks, Lori!
      I would absolutely love to find that documentary. (And send you the camera, if you’ve found it.) I did a Google-search for “Summer with Celic”, and came up empty. But please, if you do find it, send me the information on where I can get my hands on a copy.

      I hope you enjoy the book. And please let me know how your search goes.



  7. Hi James,

    I was at the Build A Book event and I really enjoyed your stories. I love searching for information and I took on your challenge but was not able to find the documentary for you. However, I was able to locate information about the film referenced in the post above. The film was a true story called Summer with Selik. It was filmed by the renowned Norwegian nature and wildlife filmmaker, Trygve Berge, along the visually spectacular western coast of Norway. Each year, a few seal pups are left orphaned off the rocky Norwegian coastline. When Katrine finds a two-day-old baby seal alone on a tiny island of rock, she rescues it from certain death, brings it to her home and names him Selik. What follows is a bittersweet tale of adventure, laughter, and tears. The bond that develops between Katrine and Selik during the seal’s recuperation is all the more poignant because Katrine knows she must return Selik to the open sea once he is healthy and strong and has learned to survive in the wild.

    I hope this helps!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: