Quick, tell me everything you know about baby puffins.
Yeah, that's what I thought. Your knowledge is probably as thin on the ground as mine. To be honest I had never given puffins much thought, aside from the fact that they are darn cute and I've enjoyed seeing them at the zoo.
Then we were sent a review copy of the new book Puffling Patrol, out this month from authors Ted and Betsy Lewin. And suddenly I was learning a whole lot about these incredible birds, especially their youngsters, and the remote islands off the coast of Iceland where they make their homes.
Pufflings are baby puffins. They are cared for by their parents, and about this time every year they begin leaving their cliff-face homes to venture out into the sea. But a small percentage of pufflings raised on the island of Heimaey get disoriented and instead of heading for open water, end up landing on the streets of the villages nearby. Not yet strong enough to take off again, the birds might end up in serious trouble. But that's where the Puffling Patrol takes over, a group of children who are trained to seek out and rescue the fledgling birds, helping them make their way to the sea.
The Lewins are both Caldecott Honor winners, and at this point in their illustrious careers they could afford to phone it in a bit. Lucky for readers, they don't. The Lewins visited Heimaey in August of 2008, and the book shares their experiences learning about the pufflings and their habitat, and following two Puffling Patrol members. The result is a book as affecting as it is informative, one that brings readers up close and personal with the birds and with the children who rescue them. Ted's paintings and Betsy's field sketches bring the story to life, capturing the tension as the children search for any foundlings in the dark of night. Watching Erna and Dani release the pufflings they've found on the beach is an emotionally stirring moment in the narrative; children will be inspired to learn more about animal rescues, and perhaps to do what they can for the wildlife where they live.
The end of the book features fascinating facts about puffins, their homeland, and their current situation amid an ecosystem shift. Puffling Patrol is a natural choice for school and classroom libraries, but don't overlook titles like this for your home collection as well. Kids love learning about the world around them - Earth is a pretty amazing place, after all! - and titles that pair dramatic narratives with vivid paintings and sketches can satisfy their thirst for adventure every bit as well as a novel could.
Think you have what it takes to be part of the Puffling Patrol? Then you need to take part in a Puffling Hunt! This is a fun scavenger hunt sponsored by the publisher of Puffling Patrol, where you can visit kidlit blogs, including Sprout's Bookshelf, to locate pictures of pufflings they've posted during the month of August. Full details coming soon to the Lee & Low blog, so check there for the scoop!
Puffling Patrol by Ted and Betsy Lewin, published by Lee & Low
Source: review copy received from the publisher (this review represents my true and unbiased opinion of the book)
Sample: "The children gently hold their precious charges. It is time to release the pufflings and send them out to sea. / 'Good luck,' whispers Erna. 'Be careful, little one.'"