The Old Man and the Penguin, written by Julie Abery, illustrated by Pierre Pratt

The Old Man and the Penguin 
written by Julie Abery
illustrated by Pierre Pratt
Kids Can Press, 2020
978-1-5253-0208-4 (hc) $19.99
978-1-5253-0606-8 (eBook) $9.99
for Kindergarten to Grade 3

Picture Book | Magellanic Penguins | Oil Spills | Wildlife in Distress | Empathy | Human-Animal Relationships

Stranded on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, an oil-covered and motionless penguin is discovered by João, an elderly man who lives nearby. Taken to João’s home, the penguin is scrubbed clean, fed and nursed back to health. Rather than return to the sea, the penguin decides to stay with his rescuer, who names him Dindim. “Fishy kisses, beak to nose./ Day by day, their friendship grows… He loves the penguin like a child,/ but deep inside he knows he’s wild.” The sea eventually reclaims Dindim, but not for long: “Four months pass – he’s back on shore,/ and waddles to his old friend’s door… Time to spend eight months on land,/ pampered, loved and fed by hand.” This pattern of four months at sea, then eight months on land with João continues for years, their peculiar but precious bond unbroken.

Employing rhyming couplets, author Julie Abery has resurrected a captivating and poignant story that took place in Brazil in 2011 involving João Pereira de Souza, a retired bricklayer, and a forlorn penguin under marked duress. Also included is factual information about Magellanic penguins, of which Dindim is one, and the tragic impact oil spills in the seas and oceans can have on marine wildlife.

Rendered in pencil and digitally in Photoshop, Pierre Pratt’s winsome illustrations depict the warmth and affection between two unlikely friends.  His engaging images, coupled with this endearing story, will surely linger in readers’ memories and hearts.

Senta Ross is a former elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in Kitchener, Ontario.

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