GRAND RAPIDS — How an adventurous sea lion journeyed from California to Toledo may sound unbelievable, but it really happened.
And Sharon Moor has written it down.
Moor, of Grand Rapids, has published her first book, “Away I Go,” about Cyril the Sea Lion and how he escaped and ended up in Toledo in 1958.
She stumbled over the story after reading “Historical Tales of Toledo” by Clint Mauk. In it was the history of the Toledo area. There were only one or two sentences about the sea lion, but Moor was intrigued.
“The more I read about it, I thought it could be a Disney movie, there are so many twists and turns. I could see that very easily becoming an animated feature.”
The children’s book starts after Cyril’s capture near Santa Barbara island in California and sale for $150 to Storybook Gardens in London, Ontario, Canada, for its marine-mammal exhibit. It chronicles how he escaped the salt-water pool at the gardens through screening and made it down to the Thames River.
Cyril traveled to Lake Charles, into the Detroit River and Lake Erie. He dove away from police boats trying to capture him. It is thought he went as far up the Maumee River to the Perrysburg rapids before heading back to the lake.
A week after his escape, Cyril was caught by Toledo Zoo employees at the Billman Boathouse near Sandusky.
Around 23,000 people came to the zoo to see his departure back to Canada and 50,000 people lined the route through the town to Storybook Gardens.
Cyril died in 1967 at the age of 11. He became Storybook Gardens official mascot in 2003.
Thomas G. Skeldon, whose father Phil was the Toledo Zoo director at the time, wrote the forward for the book. He was 10 at the time of the escape and retrieval.
Moor dedicated the book to her 10 grandchildren.
“I always wanted to do children’s books, I never wanted to do adult books. I don’t really know why, but that was always an interest of mine.”
When she went to college, she intended to become a writer, majoring in English and minoring in art with the idea of writing children’s books.
“But you know how life happens and one thing leads to another,” Moor said.
Since then she had done every kind of writing imaginable, from grant writing, commentary for the Bowling Green holiday parade, and publicity releases for newspapers. She was the editor of the school newspaper at Rogers High School in Toledo.
All those jobs fed her need to write.
“This is one area I had never tried before,” Moor said about the book.
She said she didn’t find it difficult to write, since the story was so compelling “it flowed on the page.”
She is the former librarian at St. Rose Catholic School in Perrysburg, a post she held for nine years. Before that, she was assistant to the executive director for the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce for five years.
Moor said she stumbled across the story of Cyril and thought it was amazing.
The research and writing were done within a month in 2018, but its publication was delayed for reasons she didn’t want to discuss on the record.
As a children’s librarian, she saw a lot of interesting fiction books but not non-fiction books.
“I saw this story, which I knew was a true story, and I saw all the twist and turns, and I just thought this would be a perfect non-fiction book for children.”
The book was edited by David Mertz, a former Otsego Local Schools board member and former copy editor at the Blade. Former neighbor Beverly Westrick illustrated the 29 pages. Another friend, Nancy Seeburger, who taught first grade for Bowling Green City Schools, gave suggestions for the “Learn More” section at the end of the book.
“All those different people in my life helped with the process,” Moor said.
The “Learn More” section is aimed to provide questions and classroom discussions of the book.
“I knew what teachers were looking for in non-fiction books and I just could see all kinds of opportunities.”
There is science in the book, plus geography, mammals, salt water versus fresh water, and measurements.
There are several words in bold type throughout the story, such as marine, curator and lesions. A glossary explains the meaning of the words.
The glossary was created when Moor had two of her granddaughters read the book and underline words they did not know the meaning to.
This is Moor’s first book and she would like to do more but needs to find an interesting story.
The book became available for sale in April and is on Amazon. As of May 27, it had sold 184 copies.