Penguins (Nature’s Children), by Lucia Raatma
There is something fascinating about seeing the way that a variety of publishers feel the need to publish books about penguins because they are obviously a very popular animal. There are a lot of things that can be said about penguins, to be sure, but one thing that is easily noticed when one reads a few books on the animal is that the same things get mentioned over and over again. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just more evidence (if more was needed) that the driving force behind the creation of more books about penguins is not necessarily that more is known about them, but that enough people enjoy reading them that there is a high degree of competition among authors and among publishers for having books about them with glossy photographs and quirky information to compete for the obvious reading audience. It is remarkable to see that this is a phenomenon in books about animals just as it is in books about geography where school assignments and even homeschooling allow for a large enough market to exist to sell books about odd and beloved animals like the penguin (although certainly not only them), even as one can find exactly 0 books about the hyrax in one’s local library system, if you are like most people.
This book is a short one that begins with a fact file on penguins that hints at the complexity of the animal, including the fact that “scientists agree” that there are currently eighteen species of extent penguins, and that their habitats include cold icy areas as well as tropical islands. The rest of the contents are divided into five chapters. The first chapter claims to be “all about penguins, and it contains some pictures and some basic information about some of the various penguin species (1). After that there is a discussion of how penguins stay alive, including their diet, their grooming and transportation habits, and the predators they have to deal with (2). Then there is a look at life in a penguin colony (3), which includes information about building nests (!), hatching and raising chicks, and the changes that happen when chicks grow up. This is followed by a chapter on the penguins of the past (4), which includes information about human-sized penguins and speculation on the increased competition from dolphins and whales that apparently led to the extinction of these massive penguins who could not find enough to eat. Finally, the chapter on today and tomorrow (5) looks at the threats to penguins from human causes as well as supposed climate change and what can be done to protect the adorable animals. Combined with a glossary, habitat map, resources for further information, an index, and information about the author, the book comes out to around 50 pages.