Kids Book Corner: Meet California’s Special Penguin, Pierre and a Whale Named Grayson

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BY JO PERRY

During hot weather,  the next best thing to getting wet is reading a story about swimming. Pierre the Penguin, A True Story by Jean Marzullo and illustrator Laura Regan introduces children to Pierre, an African penguin who lives in San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences. Pierre’s story is told through Marzullos’s informative and mostly charming rhymes, and Regan’s extraordinary illustrations. Regan catches Pierre’s lively but worried expression, and details of his habitat among 19 other penguins in the Academy aquarium.

Kids familiar with arctic penguins will be interested to learn about African penguin Pierre, who loves to swim until he loses his bottom feathers, and is no longer comfortable in the chilly water. Being featherless also ruins Pierre’s friendships with the other birds, who become alarmed and angry at his altered appearance. Aquatic biologist Pam Schaller tries a heater, but that fails to help Pierre return to swimming, and doesn’t change the way the flock feels about him. Then, while walking her dog in on a rainy day, Schaller hatches a brilliant and simple solution to Pierre’s problem.

Kids will relate to Pierre’s isolation and self-consciousness, will enjoy the resourcefulness of the biologist, and will be interested in the questions from kids that biologist Pam Shaller answers at the end of the book.

Kids can visit the academy’s penguin webcam here: www.calacademy.org/webcams/penguins and see Pierre during the colony’s feeding times at 10:30 and 3:30 daily.

Parents and older readers of chapter books can happily immerse themselves in world-record breaking open water-swimmer Lynne Cox’s (Swimming To Antarctica) memoir of her encounter with a lost baby whale, Grayson. Cox realizes that a baby gray whale is following her as she finishes her morning swim off the Southern California coast, and realizes too, that if she cannot find the migrating calf’s mother, he will die. The brief but intense friendship between the swimmer and whale is unforgettable, as are Cox’s description of her second home, the ocean.

Jo Perry has a Ph.D. in English, taught literature and writing, and worked as a college administrator and as a television writer and producer. She is a reviewer for BookBrowse.com and is an ongoing contributor to kidsLA Magazine for which she writes about the city, children’s books, and conducts interviews. For two years she wrote the Kids’ Book Club column for the L.A. Times’ Kids’ Reading Room page.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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