CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 15. . . .December 15, 2017
The Puffin Problem.
Tors Cove, NL: Running the Goat Books & Broadsides, 2017.
44 pp., paperback, $12.95.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.
Review by Linda Ludke.
There once was a city by the sea with a peculiar problem. Puffins were popping up everywhere . Nobody knew what they were doing there, and nobody knew why they had come.
In The Puffin Problem, St. John’s, Newfoundland, becomes inundated with black and white seabirds. Puffins find a perch everywhere, including on rooftops, garbage cans, and even soccer balls. The puzzled residents offer some hypotheses: maybe the puffins were lured by the sparkling city lights or were attracted to the “rows of brightly painted houses” or enticed by the abundance of seafood restaurants. All of this avian activity gets in the way of everyday life. The puffins hog the basketball nets, monopolize the merry-go-round and make “pets and pigeons” uncomfortable. The merits of shipping the birds away in a “Special Delivery” wooden crate addressed to Reykjavik, Iceland, are briefly considered. A young girl hatches a clever plan that involves large quantities of tasty fish and a boat headed out to sea. Finally, the “Puffin Problem” is solved... “Well, at least until the next year.”
Lori Doody’s lively folk art illustrations, rendered in pencil and watercolour, humourously capture the birds ambling across the road, tying up traffic, and loitering in front of shops. A wordless spread shows one puffin visiting The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, while another puffin enjoys a splash in a public fountain, and three more puffins seem to be making a long distance call in a telephone booth.
The text plays with language and is a great read-aloud choice. There’s lots of punchy alliteration (“peculiar problem”, “bad for business”), puns (“Tongue N’ Cheek” and “The Red Herring” restaurants), and witty one-liners (surrounded by puffins, a birdwatcher dryly comments, “This is quite an improbability!”). Endnotes offer five fun facts about puffins and also provide context for the story, explaining how puffins nest in St. John’s every summer and sometimes end up stranded on land. The Puffin Problem is a charming, regionally-flavoured picture book sure to appeal to a wide audience.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.
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University of Manitoba
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