Magnolia resident Alison Kan Grevstad has been designing the Seattle Aquarium’s fundraising and conservation materials for more than a decade. When the aquarium approached her with the idea of creating a children’s book three years ago, she knew exactly who her collaborators would be.

Nature writer and conservationist Brenda Peterson was born in the High Sierra, and spent her early years at a forest lookout station.

“I kind of imprinted more on animals than people,” she said.

Her father, R. Max Peterson, rose up the ranks to become the 11th chief of the U.S. Forest Service in 1979, and moved to various regions around the country in the process.

“I grew up in conservation,” Peterson said. “He taught me a lot about the wild.”

She has written several books about restoration of the wolf population, and her 2018 “Wild Orca” children’s book received the National Science Teachers Award and was named a Junior Library Guild Book last year.

“I met Brenda when she was doing a workshop at Island Wood on Bainbridge Island, and she invited me to join one of her [writing] classes,” Grevstad said. “Recently, we joined again, but in the course of that this project came up. So, I’ve known of her and all the wonderful work she does for all the animals. She advocates just wonderfully for a lot of different animals other than humans.”

Peterson started Seal Sitters a decade ago in West Seattle. The volunteer group monitors the coastline and is part of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

“So I’ve spent a lot of time with marine mammals and the aquarium,” Peterson said, “and I said, ‘I’ll do a children’s book.’”

Grevstad also had an illustrator in mind: Caldecott Medalist Ed Young, who has illustrated more than 80 children’s books; he’s also Grevstad’s uncle.

“This book is the first effort of the [Seattle] Aquarium to start introducing empathy into their programming,” Grevstad said.

The story Peterson pitched was based on her old Siamese cat Ivan Louis III, who would often get lost on the beach, and the lessons learned by the sea creatures that appear at low tide, including a real experience with a colony of sea anemones.

“So I introduced the lost cat, who is Catastrophe,” Peterson said, “and I was worried the scientists at the aquarium would say, ‘Oh no, we want to stick with the barnacles,’ but they were into the cat.”

“Catastrophe by the Sea” was released by West Margin Press in Berkeley, California on Oct. 1.

“I had to come up with a way to make this book come alive for kids with the cat,” Peterson said. “Once I had the story, and the aquarium approved of the story, I sent the story, which I’d finished, to Ed.”

Young had flown to Seattle from New York to meet with Peterson. Catastrophe the cat was actually modeled after Peterson’s other Siamese cat Loki, who passed away last month.

“This book is really his memorial,” she said. “Every time I look at the book, I see my boy.”

Grevstad said she joined her uncle back in New York, where he began working on the illustrations.

“He worked on it nonstop, until he had finished it basically,” she said.

“This art is museum-quality,” Peterson said.

It’s important for adults to model empathy and conservation for children, she said, especially given what’s happening at the southern border. “Catastrophe by the Sea” also teaches children about the “super powers of survival of these tide pool creatures,” she said.

“We have a lot to learn about survival, of dealing with high and low tides, and the water is our teacher,” Peterson said.

This week marks the start of Peterson and Young’s work to share “Catastrophe by the Sea” and its messages with children and adults.

Peterson will read the book, and Young is flying out to help children make puppets based on the characters, during an event 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Seattle Aquarium, 1483 Alaskan Way.

Jim Wharton, the director of Conservation and Engagement at the Seattle Aquarium, will join Peterson at  Elliott Bay Book Company to talk about the aquarium’s role in fostering empathy at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13. He will also share his recent experience visiting with the Dalai Lama.

Peterson will sign copies of “Catastrophe by the Sea” from 4-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Magnolia Bookstore, which coincides with the Magnolia Art Walk.