The Penguin of Ilha Grande by Shannon Earle , illustrated by Renato Alarcao (Charlesbridge, 2023), tells the true story of a friendship between an older man and a penguin. The subtitle is “From Animal Rescue to Extraordinary Friendship,” and the story is entertaining to children as well as educational about the difficult changing climate conditions for animals like the Magellanic penguins.
On the island of Ilha Grande in Brazil, Seu Joao discovered a stranded Magellanic penguin, slick with oil. He carefully cleaned each feather with dish soap, and, after a recuperation time, he set the penguin, nicknamed Dindim, free in the ocean. Except Dindim kept returning! He ate from only Seu Joao’s hand and enjoyed indoor showers, and despite Seu Joao’s attempts at rehabilitation, he stayed. After four months, Dindim did swim away, only to return the next year and stay four months again! This repeated for seven years, until in 2018 Dindim did not return, possibly to begin a family of his own elsewhere.
My 7-year-old daughter wanted me to tell you that she really liked this book and that she liked the pictures (pencil illustrations). We found a map so she could see where Ilha Grande in Brazil is, and we found the regular grounds in which Magellanic penguins are found. The book has end matter to discuss more about Dindim’s possible fate, Magellanic penguins, and threats and conservations efforts for penguins. (My daughter wasn’t interested in the end matter, but I summarized for her.)
I was not as enthralled by the book as she was, and I’m not quite sure why. The story was straight forward and interesting, but I think it missed a chance to emphasize the cute-ness of the whole situation. Similarly, the cover doesn’t centralize of the penguin, but rather not Seu Joao. It’s true that he was the hero, but the star of the show here should be the friendly penguin.
I received a digital review copy of this book.