Andre the Famous Harbor Seal, written by Fran Hodgkins and illustrated by Yetti Fenkel, tells the true story of the incredible bond between André the seal and Harry Goodridge, the harbormaster of Rockport, Maine and the twenty-five years they spent together.
The story opens by explaining that today you aren’t allowed to catch wild seals, but that in 1961 there were no regulations prohibiting the keeping of seals. In the beginning, Harry kept André at his house with his family and a menagerie of other pets, with twice daily trips to Rockport Harbor for a swim (my son wanted to know if we could get a permit to keep a seal in our bathtub too.) Once André learned to eat fish, he began spending entire days in the ocean, but he always came back for dinner. Harry started teaching André tricks based on the seal’s natural behavior and he quickly became famous, giving shows when he returned to the harbor at dinnertime. My 6 year old was really excited to find out that his dad had actually seen André when he was a child. In order to keep him safe, André spent winters at the New England Aquarium in Boston or the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. In the spring, he would be released in either Marblehead Harbor, MA or Cape Cod, MA and would swim back home to Rockport. Though he died in 1986, André is still remembered in Rockport and there’s even a statue of him in the Rockport Marine Park. There are also lots of boat tours departing out of Bar Harbor, Booth Bay, and Casco Bay, to see Harbor Seals in the wild.