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Children's Nonfiction Marine Life

Orca Rescue!

The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer

by (author) Donna Sandstrom

illustrated by Sarah Burwash

Kids Can Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Marine Life, Endangered, Environmental Conservation & Protection
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 8 to 12
  • Grade: 3 to 7
  • Reading age: 8 to 12


A captivating account of the only successful orca rescue and reunion in history told in first person by Donna Sandstrom, a citizen participant of the rescue.

In 2002, a young orca was spotted alone in Puget Sound near Seattle --- lost, underweight and 300 miles away from her home waters in Canada. Donna Sandstrom, an orca enthusiast in Seattle, eagerly joined the volunteer effort to help. Here she tells the riveting story, from identifying the orca as a missing calf named Springer; through making the decision to try to transport her home; to planning and organizing the trip; to, finally, releasing her near Vancouver Island, where Springer was reunited with her family. It's an incredible story of the only successful orca rescue and reunion ever, and readers will be captivated as the epic rescue unfolds!

Donna Sandstrom's fascinating up-close-and-personal depiction of the rescue mission, with new behind-the-scenes details, uses an innovative mix of narrative storytelling interspersed with spreads of factual information about orcas and the history of their relationship with humans. Sarah Burwash's evocative watercolor illustrations make the perfect accompaniment to the text. Orcas and their survival are a topical issue, and readers will discover what it's like on the front lines of whale rescue, including the collaboration and teamwork that are required. There are numerous curriculum links to life science here, particularly animals and habitats, as well as to social studies in the descriptions of the connections and cooperation between Canada and the United States. The book includes a map showing Springer's trip, tips for how to help whales and dolphins, resources and a glossary.

About the authors

Donna Sandstrom became interested in orcas when she moved to Seattle in 1982 and started dreaming about them. In 2002, she was a citizen organizer in the effort to return Springer, an orphaned orca, to her pod. The experience inspired her to leave a 14-year career in software development to go all in for the orcas. In 2008, she founded The Whale Trail, a series of sites where people can watch whales from shore. Donna lives in Seattle, Washington.

Donna Sandstrom's profile page

Sarah Burwash grew up in the small mountain town of Rossland, B.C. She graduated from the University of British Columbia Okanagan in 2009.Working in a variety of media, from drawing and collage to video and installation, Burwash’s work most often takes form in narrative watercolour drawings. She has participated in residencies in British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Colorado, the Yukon and Michigan. Burwash recently had a solo exhibition at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts and completed her first animation through The Centre for Art Tapes Media Arts Scholarship program. She currently resides in Halifax, NS, working full time as an artist and freelance illustrator.

Sarah Burwash's profile page


  • Unknown, Best Intermediate Nonfiction 2022, International Literary Association
  • Joint winner, Skipping Stones Book Honor Awards, Skipping Stones
  • Winner, 2021 Book Award, Children and Young Readers, Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC)
  • Unknown, Best General Nonfiction, Children, American Society of Journalists and Authors
  • Short-listed, Washington State Book Awards, Washington Center for the Book and The Seattle Public Library

Editorial Reviews


Kirkus Reviews, starred review

This wonderful book is a delight to read and very informative.

School Library Connection

... an inspiring story with memorable lessons about overcoming adversity, the power of teamwork, and the enduring strength of family ties.

Hakai Magazine

It's perfect for recreational reading, rereading, sharing and for stimulating discussion about our relationship with the natural world and the need for human intervention in critical conservation situations.

CM Magazine

Whale Trail founder Donna Sandstrom has scripted a well-researched, feel-happy story for all ages --- a story for the ages. Her involvement in Springer's rescue makes it personal and resonant. Discover how a charismatic young orca and engaged scientists can inspire brave management decisions and get humans to work together. The wild orca families take care of the rest. Inspiring.

Erich Hoyt, author of Orca: The Whale Called Killer

Other titles by Sarah Burwash