The Emperor's Egg

The Emperor's Egg

Book Information

Candlewick Press, 1999
Year Published
Good for Reluctant Readers?

This eye-opening book takes us to faraway Antarctica, a place so cold "it's hard to imagine anything living there." But there is something in the distance, barely visible in the inhospitable darkness. As we move closer, we discover the creature's identity: it is a male empire penguin, and he is doing something remarkable: he is caring for an egg.

Author Martin Jenkins, in kid-friendly and humorous style, describes emperor penguin child care from egg-laying through the early weeks of the chick's life. He details the difficulties the fathers encounter—no food, staying warm and protecting their eggs in extreme weather, feeding the new hatchlings--in a manner even young children can relate to. "Can you image it? Standing around in the freezing cold with an egg on your feet for two whole months? And because he's egg-sitting, he can't go off to sea to feed. So that means two whole months with an egg on your feet and no dinner! Or breakfast or lunch or snacks. I don't know about you but I'd be very, very miserable." (In all fairness to Mother Penguin, we learn that she is feeding at sea and returns able to provide food for her youngster.)

Keeping the intended audience in mind, the author handles the more frightening aspects of penguins' lives with sensitivity or omits them altogether. Jenkins includes facts about Emperor penguins in a forward and in smaller type accompanying the text, which make the book valuable for readers older than the picture-book crowd.

Jane Chapman's acrylic art work allows the reader to sense the cold darkness of the long Antarctic night, and the "body language" of the penguins demonstrates what they might be experiencing (such as anticipation of their eggs' hatching or the mother's excitement at her arrival) without diminishing the realism of the illustrations. A glorious touch comes at the end when the mother penguin returns and the colors of the sky and snow suggest dawn--and the end of the long winter night. This book is a literary and artistic feast. 29 pages. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Recommended by Barbara Karp, Librarian.

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