________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 11 . . . . January 23, 2009

cover Penguins. (Amazing Animals).

Dave Whitfield.
Calgary, AB: Weigl (Distributed by Saunders Book Company), 2009.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-59036-969-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-59036-968-5 (hc.).

Subject Heading:
Penguins-Juvenile literature.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Bruce Dyck.

**½ /4


Penguin feathers are designed to keep the penguins warm. Close to their body, they have down feathers, over the down feathers they have waterproof feathers. These feathers overlap so that wind cannot get through to their skin.

Penguins is the newest addition to the "Amazing Animal" series published by Weigl. As with the rest of the series, it is in an easy-to-read format providing the reader with basic information about the featured creature. The book uses bullet points, charts, and diagrams to convey a good portion of the information. Accompanying these is straight, easy-to-read text with lots of brightly coloured, well reproduced pictures of the subject matter.

     Penguins is organized into nine categories, following the same formula as the other books in the series. In addition to these nine categories, included at the end of the book is a quiz to test the reader's knowledge of the information given in the book, a vocabulary list and several snail mail addresses for sources of further information.

     Penguins is a worthy addition to the series. However, having said that, there are a few things that could be improved. The first is in the web content. The back of the book promotes that there are "Website links [that] connect readers to relevant, child-friendly Internet content." There are two, and of the two, only one worked for me. Why the publisher didn't include the web addresses for the contact sources listed at the end of the book is a mystery to me. I was able to find all three of them in about four minutes of searching. If they had included these web addresses, the claim of being able to connect readers to relevant, child-friendly Internet content would have been much more valid, rather then purely promotional.

     Of somewhat greater concern to me is the prominent inclusion of the movie Happy Feet in the section on Myths and Legends. Given over 30% more text then the other prominently mentioned March of the Penguins and combined with the inclusion of the movie Madagascar, and the exclusion of Surf's Up, I have to question the commercial motivation here, something I feel is out of place in a fact-based book meant to be a resource book for students working on a research project.

     Lastly, I have to call into question the statement made in the section Under Threat. Under the heading "What do you think?" the book states that "Overfishing of krill is a great threat to penguins. . . . Do you think overfishing should be stopped?" According to Jerry Leape, the Director of the Antarctic Krill Conservation Project at the Pew Environment Group in the United States, krill is not over-fished, and while scientists believe krill have declined by 80 per cent since the 1970s, the most likely cause is global warming. Furthermore, under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the annual allowed krill catch in the Southern Ocean is 4 million tonnes. But until now, there has been 'huge under-fishing', usually less than 20 per cent of that quota.

     In fact, I was unable to find any evidence that overfishing of krill is currently a threat to penguins. All the information I could find pointed to global warming as the greatest threat, not only to penguins but to the krill population as well. As this statement is intended to engage the student in further thinking on the subject of conservation, it would have been much better to use one of the other potential threats for this purpose.

     The series generally, and Penguins specifically, is obviously targeted at the classroom. The book reads like a textbook, albeit an easy-to-read one. Even with the difficulties mentioned above, Penguins does that job quite well. If the teacher considers this point and steers student through the difficulties that could arise from the minor problems noted above, they will find thse book will do an admirable job.


Bruce Dyck is currently employed by his wife and two sons as a stay-at-home dad in Winnipeg, MB.

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