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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Smeagull The Seagull: A True Story

Air Date: Week of

Smeagull the Seagull comes to the house near the shore every day and knocks on the sliding glass door. (Illustration by Valerie Elaine Pettis)

Smeagull the Seagull comes to the house near the shore every day and knocks on the sliding glass door. He knocks when he’s hungry and the people who live there feed him. Those humans are Living on Earth’s Explorer-in-Residence Mark Seth Lender, and his wife and illustrator Valerie Elaine Pettis. Their new children’s book Smeagull the Seagull: A True Story teaches young children about the value of experiencing and protecting animals and nature. Mark reads his book aloud.


CURWOOD: You may have noticed Mark Seth Lender, our Explorer in Residence, was missing from our holiday gift ideas segment. Mark brings us evocative essays from his travels with stories of lions hunting on the Serengeti or close encounters with polar bears in the Arctic. But his gift for this holiday season is his experience with wildlife much closer to home, literally in his back yard. Mark will be giving a book for children he wrote and his wife Valerie Elaine Pettis illustrated, about a herring gull that visits his Connecticut home every day looking to be fed, of course. So to preview our holiday storytelling season, here is Mark reading his book, Smeagull the Seagull.

LENDER: There's a house near a seawall, facing the shore, and that house has a porch with a sliding glass door. And the people who live there, Valerie and me, stand by that door and look toward the sea.

Smeagull The Seagull is available now. (Illustration by Valerie Elaine Pettis)

Because Seamgull the Seagull knows that we know. He comes in the rain. He comes in the snow.

He comes in summer, I'm telling the truth. He comes when icicles hang from the roof.

He comes in the spring. He comes in the fall. He comes when it's cloudy, and there's no sun at all.

Yes, every day at quarter past four, Smeagull the Seagull knocks on the door. He knocks when he's hungry. He's hard to ignore. It's Smeagull the Seagull, asking for more.

Again in the morning at 10 past 6, Smeagull comes knocking. It's loud is a stick when he knocks with his beak on the sliding glass door. It's Smeagull the Seagull, asking for more.

Wherever you live Seagull is heard. It’s spoken by Smeagull and millions of birds.

I can say I'm tired and I'm going to bed.

I can say I'm hungry and I want to be fed.

I can say I'm angry, angry and mad.

I can say please. I can say I'm so sad.

The book is based on the story of the real “Smeagull” who would often greet Mark and Valerie at their Connecticut home. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Some people think they're smarter than birds. But can they speak Seagull? Not one single word.

I was talking and talking. I was all out of breath. So I started knocking, knocking works best. My people know when I knock on the door, it's Smeagull the Seagull, and I'm here for more.

I only eat fish from the Starfish Store. I'm a star, named Smeagull, and I'm ready for more.

Smeagull the Seagull walks down the beach. He lands on the seawall, he flies out of reach. All of the children, all over the town cry, there goes Smeagull! Smeagull’s around!

All that walking and flying keeps Smeagull fit, but it does make him hungry, and he eats quite a bit. So we bought a new freezer, with a really big shelf. Full of fish, for Smeagull, it's all for himself!

It stands in the kitchen from ceiling to floor. We thought we'd be ready when Smeagull said, “more.”

Then Valerie cried “Where’s Smeagull’s fish! The shelf is empty. There's no food in his dish! Starfish will be closing in a minute or two.”

I said, “Start the pickup!” Down the driveway we flew.

Captain Mike had the keys. He was locking the store. He was fresh out of fish. But he said, “I’ll get more.”

Hungry for scraps of sustainable seafood, Smeagull visits even in a snowstorm. (Illustration by Valerie Elaine Pettis)

So he climbed aboard his boat, the Collette, named after his wife who keeps Starfish as pets.

“Don't worry, he said we're not finished yet I'll head out to see, and see what I get.”

The engine roared. He was soon out of sight. “If we have to,” we called, “We'll wait here all night.”

Captain Mike returned with a net full of smelts. “They're fish” he said, “they’re good for your health.”

And he gave us enough to fill Smeagull’s shelf.

We drove home in the pickup with our fish neatly wrapped. Smeagull didn't greet us, was he taking a nap?

All we could do was shake our heads.

“We have to find Smeagull,” was all that we said.

All of the children all over the town helped look for Smeagull. They looked up, they looked down.

They looked in the trees. They looked on the ground. But Smeagull The Seagull was not to be found.

We were tired and hungry, but we couldn't eat. We turned off the lights, but we couldn't sleep.

It was cold, and windy, and day after day, we waited for Smeagull but he'd gone away.

The sea cannot hear you. The sky cannot speak. Life without Smeagull is lonely and bleak.

But what is that sound I here at the door? That knock, it’s familiar! We ran cross the floor.

“I'm Smeagull The Seagull. I'm back with my seagull. Her name is Shegull. She's a seagull like me. There's an egg in our nest and we’ll soon be a family of three.”

The calls of the gulls are a familiar sound not only at the coast, but far inland. Seagulls are found on every continent including Antarctica. (Illustration by Valerie Elaine Pettis)

There used to be one gull and now there are three gulls. Smeagull, Shegull, and baby gull Megull.

They're our family birds and we love them too much for words.

CURWOOD: Living on Earth’s explorer in residence Mark Seth Lender, reading his new book Smeagull the Seagull. You can find out how to get his book, and see photos of the real Smeagull, on our website LOE.org.



Buy a signed copy of Smeagull the Seagull and support Living on Earth

Mark Seth Lender’s website


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