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review 2017-12-18 22:15
Among Penguins / Noah Strycker
Among Penguins: A Bird Man in Antarctica - Noah Strycker

The year he graduated from college, 22-year-old Noah Strycker was dropped by helicopter in a remote Antarctic field camp with two bird scientists and a three months’ supply of frozen food. His subjects: more than a quarter million penguins.

Compact, industrious, and approachable, the Adélie Penguins who call Antarctica home visit their breeding grounds each Antarctic summer to nest and rear their young before returning to sea. Because of long-term studies, scientists may know more about how these penguins will adjust to climate change than about any other creature in the world.

Bird scientists like Noah are less well known. Like the intrepid early explorers of Antarctica, modern scientists drawn to the frozen continent face an utterly inhospitable landscape, one that inspires, isolates, and punishes.


  If you have enjoyed Ron Naveen’s Waiting to Fly or Gavin Francis’ Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence, and Emperor Penguins, you will likely also enjoy this book. In many ways, Among Penguins is like an update of Naveen’s work, documenting just how far research in Antarctica has come in 20 years. I also found the book somewhat reminiscent of Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder.

Like Kaufman, Strycker is a young man obsessed with birds. Unlike Kaufman, he chooses to find research positions to facilitate his quest for a larger, more exotic life list (a list of all the species of birds that one has seen during one’s life, for those who are not members of the birding cult). Although Strycker isn’t sleeping in ditches or hitch-hiking his way to his next birding destination, he does still endure some hardships during his Antarctic sojourn—his tent is destroyed in hurricane force winds, his boots (when outfitted with crampons) wound his ankles, he is unable to shower for 3 months. Nevertheless, he seems a cheerful and willing researcher, completely under the spell of the penguin.

There is a fair bit of interesting penguin info in this slim volume and some insights into the research process, but there is also an awful lot about Noah Stryker! If you are looking for penguin facts and statistics, this may not be the best reference for you. However, if you are interested in the lives of researchers in far flung parts of the planet, it will scratch that itch.

Stryker’s tale also convinces me that biological field work is not for me! In my life, roughing it is a cheap motel and my knees long ago betrayed me, making me far too unstable on my feet for the type of terrain that he takes in stride. However, I can admire and enjoy his hard work and tenacity.

On the main point, I agree fully with the author: there is absolutely nothing like watching a wild penguin go about its business! I have spent many happy hours doing just that and hope to still clock a few more before I’m physically forced to give up such pursuits.


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review 2017-11-18 15:04
Mr. Popper's Penguins - Richard Atwater,Florence Atwater,Robert Lawson


A very fun and entertaining book.

Since this book was originally written in the 1930s, it has the distinct style of old children's books. It is very unrealistic and silly, but still a very good read.

I really enjoyed the ridiculous plot and funny situations that the Popper family and the penguins find themselves in.

Many of the things are outdated (Mrs. People's focus on tidiness, animal licence and ethnic treatment, people not knowing what a penguin is), but it is still readable today. I would suggest some adult assistance for very young readers to give some historical context on the pre-internet, pre-computer world.

A very good read. Highly entertaining.

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review 2017-10-21 14:10
Penguins of America - James Patterson,Jack Patterson,James Madsen,Florence Yue  
Penguins of America - James Patterson,Jack Patterson,James Madsen,Florence Yue

Exquisitely -executed reproductions of iconic images of USian paintings and photography. Only with penguins instead of people. And one-liner captions.


It might have been amusing had it been poorly-drawn, amateurish, or childish cartoons. The internet Is mostly humorless jokes. But there is no amusing caption that can withstand such painstakingly art: these pictures, which are lovely, demand captions that take them seriously. Where it is charming to frame your child's kindergarten art and story, hiring pros to jazz it up is just creepy and sad and disappointing for everyone.


Library Copy

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review 2017-06-22 03:42
"Mr. Popper's Penguins" by Richard and Florence Atwater
Mr. Popper's Penguins - Florence Atwater,Richard Atwater,Robert Lawson

I didn't like this one as much as I did when I was a child. That was disappointing. It's still a fun story, though. Just a bit slower than I remember it being. But it still makes me wish I could have a basement full of penguins. :)

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review 2017-05-30 14:51
Death and the Penguin - Andrey Kurkov  
Death and the Penguin - Andrey Kurkov

I don't read much from Russia or the Eastern European nations because life is mostly grim enough. The only exception I make is for Chekov's short stories. Until Nick Hornby reviewed this in his column for Believer. And he pointed out, just for me, that the titular penguin is a real seabird from Antarctica not some sort of metaphorical penguin. Had to read it because Penguins.

My opinion of literature in Russian remains the same. This is grim; it is also joyless. There's some contentment, things aren't always horrible, but there's no pleasure, no happiness, nothing but emotional grey from autumn until spring, and even when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, no one is having fun. Viktor writes obituaries, and not in a warm, positive, life-affirming way, nor with any humor.

Also, the penguin isn't doing so well.

Nonetheless, it was bearable, if only for the sheer relief of "At least my life isn't like that." And the penguin, who sometimes comes and rests his head against Viktor's leg while Viktor works at the kitchen table, and Viktor pets him. There's no joy, but there is a penguin. And I can go forty years without reading any more fiction translated from Russian.

I would love to have a pet penguin though.

Library copy

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