Karen Autio

Children’s Author | Editor | Presenter | Sensitivity Reader for Disability Awareness

Chapter Books


June 2016 Word Award for Children's Novel (Winner) for KAH-LAN THE ADVENTUROUS SEA OTTER
Spring 2016 KAH-LAN THE ADVENTUROUS SEA OTTER Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens commendation
January 2016 Green Earth Book Award for Children’s Fiction (Nominee) for KAH-LAN THE ADVENTUROUS SEA OTTER
ISBN 978-1-989724-07-1 (paperback)

OCTOBER 1, 2020
It can be ordered from your local bookstore or directly from
Crwth Press or www.amazon.com 

Kah-lan and the stink-ink
Illustrated by: Emma Pedersen
Published by: Crwth Press

Young Kah-Lan eagerly leaves the raft he grew up in and sets out for adventure. The ocean is a dangerous place for a sea otter to survive on his own, and the farther he travels, the more unfamiliar are the sights, sounds and smells.

After Kah-Lan finds two young male otters to raft with, they paddle off in search of new hunting waters. But when the three companions encounter danger they never could have imagined, they soon find themselves on a strange and mysterious journey.

"Karen Autio has that great gift, which is to write a gripping story with a streamlined, yet richly specific vocabulary. I so enjoyed the physicality of Kah-Lan’s swimming and diving and grooming. This story of a young sea otter is also full of dangerous moments, which is realistic, and this makes for a real page-turner... with end-of-chapter cliff-hangers kids love!."
—Caroline Woodward, lighthouse keeper and author of ten books for adults and children including A WEST COAST SUMMER and LIGHT YEARS: MEMOIR OF A MODERN LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER

"With her new book KAH-LAN AND THE STINK-INK, author Karen Autio takes audiences into the world of Kah-Lan, a young male sea otter that sets out to explore British Columbia’s coastal waters. Told from the point of view of the otter, we follow Kah-Lan’s journey as he learns to survive on his own, looks for food, encounters various marine creatures, and seeks to join a male raft that will give him the protection he needs to stay alive in the ocean.
The book is packed with great information about what makes sea otters unique and educates readers about the threats these charismatic animals are exposed to: natural predators, disturbances from humans — called 'the furless ones' — and oil spills.
In addition to its educational value, the book makes you feel you are in the otter’s mind and will touch the hearts of young readers but also adults. Complemented by Emma Pedersen’s beautiful illustrations, KAH-LAN AND THE STINK-INK is a delightful window into the sea otter’s world and a powerful reminder of the responsibility we have to protect our ocean, so that Kah-Lan and all marine creatures can enjoy a home 'far away from stink-ink and furless ones.'"

—Isabelle Groc, author of SEA OTTERS: A SURVIVAL STORY


ISBN 978-1-55039-244-9 (paperback)

Winner of the 2016 Word Award in the category Novel – Children

Nominated for the Green Earth Book Award for Children’s Fiction.

It can be ordered from your local bookstore or directly from
Sono Nis Press or www.amazon.com 

Kah-lan, the adventurous sea otter
Illustrated by: Sheena Lott
Published by: Sono Nis Press

Young sea otter Kah-Lan is hungry. He is sure there are big crabs near the point, but his mother won't let him out of her sight. One day, he sees his chance. Soon he and his friend Yamka are swimming around the point—right into danger! Will they ever make it back home?

"As a former teacher, I believe this would be a wonderful addition to studying sea life, appropriate to studies of family and friendships, to discussions of competition, danger, decision-making and individuation." —Margaret Hope


Sea Otter Crafts and Learning Activities for Children

Part of CanLit for Kids Winter 2015-2016 Basic Book Package

Kah-Lan and the Stink-Ink Cover Colouring Sheet by Emma Pedersen:  PDF

Kah-Lan and the Stink-Ink How to Draw a Sea Otter by Emma Pedersen:  PDF

Kah-Lan the Adventurous Sea Otter Student Activity Guide:  Colour   B&W

Excerpt from Chapter One of KAH-LAN THE ADVENTUROUS SEA OTTER:

Splash! Kah-Lan kicks his webbed hind flippers and dives into the cold sea. Yamka chases his bubble trail.

Kah-Lan darts to the surface. He bursts out of the water, jumping over a floating sea-tree bulb. Its yellowish-green blades sparkle on the calm ocean. The young sea otter dives again.

When Kah-Lan's head pops above the water, Yamka tackles him. Her white teeth flash as she play-bites his face. Kah-Lan breaks free. He speed-weaves among the sea otter mothers and pups to the edge of their sea-tree forest. He's the oldest male in this raft. His mother chases him and hisses a warning to stay inside the forest—again.

Kah-Lan ignores her warning for a moment, staring out to sea. There he would be free to explore, without her hounding. He could hunt for big crabs!

Karen Autio at Aquarium 2 cropped sm         Kah-Lan Reading Lights plaque by Science World
Karen at the Vancouver Aquarium and at the Kah-Lan Reading Lights plaque by Science World in Vancouver, B.C.
—Will Autio photo

Karen Autio fell in love with sea otters in 1984 while visiting the Vancouver Aquarium. The following year she took her first children's literature course, for which she wrote and illustrated a story about Kah-Lan, an adventurous sea otter. Over the years Karen revised her story and sent it out to publishers. As determined as Kah-Lan, she persisted until reaching her goal: a book in readers' hands.
About Sea Otters
Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are marine mammals that live in the North Pacific Ocean, along the coasts of Japan, Russia, Canada, and the United States (Alaska and as far south as California). A few hundred years ago sea otters were plentiful. Then hunters discovered their fur, the thickest coat of all animals. By the early 1900s sea otters were nearly extinct, and governments stepped in to protect the few small, isolated groups that remained. In Alaska, the sea otter population grew significantly over the following decades, and in the 1960s and 1970s, some Alaskan sea otters were relocated to suitable coastal waters elsewhere in Alaska as well as to British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. Today there are approximately 110,000 sea otters in the world. In the United States, sea otters are listed as threatened, while in Canada they are listed as a species of Special Concern (a recent improvement over their earlier designations of Endangered, then Threatened).

These well-adapted animals spend their whole lives in the cold ocean near shore. Sea otters dive for food, eat, groom, play, float, mate, give birth, and sleep in the water, and haul out on land only when injured, ill, or in extreme danger. Their homes are in kelp forests (large seaweed, or as Kah-Lan calls them, sea-trees) and bays, usually in rocky areas.

The kelp forests where sea otters live also provide homes for fish, hiding places for grey whale calves, spawning grounds for herring, and protection against shoreline erosion and even climate change. Kelp is also food for sea urchins. By feeding on the sea urchins that eat kelp, sea otters prevent sea urchins from destroying these important kelp forests.

Sea otters can get tangled in fishing nets and drown, and pollution, disease, and parasites are serious threats. The greatest danger of all is an oil spill. Oil quickly soils a sea otter's coat, allowing cold water to reach the sea otter's skin. As the sea otter tries to clean its fur, it breathes and swallows the harmful oil. After an oil spill, a sea otter will not survive without help from marine mammal rescue experts.

It is illegal to approach, touch, or move sea otters. People should stay at least 100 metres away from sea otters. This is for the safety of the animals and the public. Sea otters have extremely sharp teeth and powerful jaws—designed to crack hard-shelled prey—and therefore their strong bite can crush a person's hand, easily breaking bones. As the number of sea otters grows and the animals spread farther along North America's west coast, interactions with humans will become more common. If you discover a sea otter in distress, contact the nearest marine mammal rescue agency.
sea otter
Photo taken by Karen Autio at the Vancouver Aquarium

Take a look at sea otters in action:

Vancouver Aquarium Sea Otter Cam

Vancouver Aquarium Underwater Otter Cam

Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Cam

Elkhorn Slough OtterCam

Check out these links for more information about sea otters:

Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Aquatic Species at Risk - Sea Otter

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Marine Mammals Management, Alaska Region

West Coast Sea Otter Recovery

Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre

Monterey Bay Aquarium


The Fantastic Fur of Sea Otters

Sea otters' effect on climate change:

World's toughest job: sea otter groomer