Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin by Stephanie M Ward

Cover of Wally the Warm-Weather PenguinThis fun children’s story is the first book that has been sent to me expressly for review on my new book blog, so hurrah for that!

I must admit I have a soft spot for penguins – don’t most of us? – especially since my daughter became an expert on identifying the many penguin types when her class topic was “Pole to Pole” a few years ago. Until then, I had no idea that there were so many, or just how many places they lived. I’d just about got my head round the fact that there are no penguins at the North Pole…

So I was pleased to be approached by the author of this book with an offer of a free review copy.

The Travels of an Adventurous Penguin

Wally the Warm-Weather Penguin is a cute, short, rhyming tale about an Emperor (that’s a penguin type, not a regal status, by the way!) who finds his native Antarctic home too cold for his liking. He therefore decides to move elsewhere, and heads for the Galapagos. Yes, penguins live there too.

When he gets there, he discovers an astonishing array of unique fauna, and the book introduces us to Blue-Footed Boobies (which sound to me like creatures that Edward Lear might have dreamed up), Sally Lightfoot Crabs (do you reckon they were discovered by one Sally Lightfoot?), Galapagos Giant Tortoises, Marine Iguanas, and the native Galapagos Penguins (half the size of Emperors, to Wally’s surprise).

As well as providing  a jaunty rhyme that makes the tale tootle along nicely and which will encourage readers gaining confidence to read the story independently, the book provides interesting facts about Wally’s new friends. The cheery illustrations of all of these animals take some poetic licence e.g. a penguin wearing a hat and relaxing in a beach hammock, but there’s a reality check at the end with a fact file and photographs of the real creatures in their natural habitat. The book ends with a map of the Galapagos islands. (There’s a map early on in the book showing where the Islands are and indicating the circuitous route Wally takes from his native land. He clearly likes to travel, as does the author.)

Interesting Jumping-Off Point

I think this is a lovely little book to introduce younger children of up to about 7 to the natural history of the Galapagos and to encourage their awareness of biodiversity around the world, whether in the classroom or at home. As you can see from my musings above, it’s the sort of book that makes you want to go off on different tangents to find out more about that fascinating region for yourself.

I only have two tiny constructive criticisms to make, which are:

  • the layout of the verse would read better if the first lines weren’t indented, so that it looked more like conventional poetry and ran on to fewer lines and looks less daunting for children to read (as it is, what should be a four-line verse on each page runs on to as many as eight lines on some pages)
  • my daughter’s observation that in the pictures in which Wally is shown facing forward, there’s a bit of an optical illusion about his beak: it looks more like a human-style smile rather than a beak  – but maybe that was the intention of illustrator Vanessa Landin, to encourage us to bond with the penguin! The illustrations are quite stylised, which is why having the photos at the back is a great idea to show them in real life.)

All in all, a cheerful, fun book on a popular theme that any animal-loving child should enjoy, and at a surprisingly low price – full-colour children’s picture books are notoriously costly to produce, compared to black-and-white novels, etc, even when they are very short, as this one is, but at the time of writing, the UK price is just £4. It’s also available as an ebook.

With thanks to Stephanie Ward for the review copy, I’ll forward to children’s charity Readathon, which provides free storybooks to children in UK hospitals, to make life seem better when they are unwell.

For more about Stephanie M Ward and her work, visit her website here:
www.stephaniemward.com

For more about Readathon, visit their website here:
www.readathon.org

Support your local high street bookshop! Ask them to order a copy in for you.
If they can’t, you can buy it from the usual suspects online:
Buy the book here from Amazon UK
Buy the book here from Amazon US

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