________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 11 . . . . January 25, 2008


Penguins of the World. 2nd. ed.       

Wayne Lynch.     
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2007.
175 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-55407-274-3.

Subject Headings:
Penguins-Pictorial works.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

**** /4


In young penguins, courtship behavior and aggression are often confused. An inexperienced male penguin may mistakenly threaten a potential mate, even attack her. Clearly, such behavior is not conducive to successful pair formation. Basically, territorial male penguins need to overcome their natural tendency to attack strangers, and unattached females need to overcome their innate reluctance to approach males. In the same way that young birds must practice swimming and fishing skills before they can breed successfully, they must also polish their social behavior. In all likelihood, they do this by playing out their courtship routine on a succession of prospective mates and learning from their failures- failures that may well span a number of seasons.

In November, 1989, science writer and photographer Wayne Lynch saw his first penguin on Phillip Island in southern Australia. So began a 28-year love affair with these fascinating and affable birds. Lynch has traveled more than 504,000 kilometres to study the 17 surviving penguin species, and he shares his knowledge and incredible photographs in this book. Combining detailed information with personal anecdotes and quotes from other scientists/researchers makes the text very engaging. Lynch concludes that one of the reasons why humans find penguins so appealing is because penguins are, in many ways, very like humans: they play games, share chores, steal on occasion, marry and divorce, and give their spouses gifts of rare stones. Topics in the book, which is comprised of six chapters, include the evolution of penguins, penguin relatives, physical characteristics of penguins, movement on land and in water, habitat, breeding patterns, colonies, nesting, care of the young, enemies and defenses, food and communication. One of the strengths of the book is that Lynch gives each type of penguin its due, describing the idiosyncratic behaviours of specific species within each chapter. Due to the sophisticated vocabulary of the text, the book is suited to better, older readers. As well, some of the subject matter is quite mature (for example, Lynch, when describing the penguins’ post-coital behavior, states, “It reminds me of a married couple I once knew who had a regular weekend routine: mid-morning sex, then the fellow would go out and mow the lawn.”).
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     Having spent so many years studying penguins, it’s no wonder that Lynch is able to capture these birds on film in such a variety of seasons, habitats and life stages. The abundant colour photographs are absolutely amazing, vibrant and crystal-clear in focus.

     At the back of the book are two appendices. The first describes the various species of penguins, their distribution, breeding population and status and also provides a map and a photograph for each species; the second appendix discusses the effects of tourism and global warming on penguin colonies. A table of contents, an index and a list of resources for further reading are also provided.

     Thoroughly researched, Penguins of the World is a tribute to the resilience and the remarkable ability of penguins to survive in harsh climates.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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