Lisa Vegan's Reviews > Pierre the Penguin: A True Story

Pierre the Penguin by Jean Marzollo
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Oct 29, 10

bookshelves: childrens, nature, non-fiction, picture-books, reviewed, san-francisco
Read on October 29, 2010

This is a lovely book for penguin lovers and those interested in aquatic biology, but it’s not ideal for those who get too upset about captive animals.

Oh, I’ve rarely been so torn about a book.

I’ve seen Pierre the penguin and his 19 fellow penguins at the Academy of Sciences. Yes, fellow vegans, I’ve been there, though I haven’t given them my money. (I do love the new planetarium, no live animals involved.) I love penguins. These guys are so adorable. I’ve gone up to the glass and “interacted” with them. I’ve seen Pam and other workers feed them. I’ve heard the question & answer sessions. I’ve been there a few times. The workers insist the penguins are deliriously happy. Maybe. But they’re a colony of just 20 penguins and people who care for them. The rocks are not real. The “sky” (ceiling) is painted sky blue, which is obviously for the benefit of human museum visitors, not the penguins. But, I know their caretakers truly care, and I think Pierre and his wetsuit is a wonderful story. So, I have such mixed feelings about Pierre and his partner and the other penguins and I’m ambivalent about the book. I hope it encourages young people to care about penguins, preferably particularly those in their natural habitats. But, I’m sure this book will encourage readers to visit Pierre and the other 19 penguins at this museum.

The illustrations are fantastic. I’ve been there and yes it does look exactly like this. I liked that readers/listeners are able to count all 20 penguins in one of the early illustrations, an illustration that takes up two pages. I’m not sure, but I would bet each penguin depicted is a specific actual penguin in the exhibit.

The story of what happened with Pierre is told in a short rhyme, with “The End” as part of the rhyme. The ingenuity of the aquatic biologist who found a solution for Pierre’s problem really is impressive.

There are questions from kids and answers from Pam at the end, and they’re the type of questions that really are asked by Academy visitors.

So, “bad” vegan that I am, the one thing I learned from this book came from the last question/answer: We can see the penguins online and that page is my next stop. I’ll see if my old, slow, decrepit computer can handle it.

www.calacademy.org/webcams/penguins

I’ll live with that guilt.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Lisa Vegan Here, I agree. I think. I haven't been behind the scenes.

I've also been behind the scenes and see how elephants and tigers were treated in a place when not in front of visitors at a supposedly wonderful conservation place, so I can't help but be torn. Those places have probably kept some species alive, but if they're all in captivity, there is no good quality of life, so I'm torn.

The 20 African penguins in this exhibit are from a species that, I don't think, is dangerously close to extinction. They are so cute though. I will watch them occasionally on the web cam.

The trouble with captive animals is that they don't, for the most part, exhibit their normal behaviors, so what people learn is about the captive animals, not how that species would be in the wild.

When I was 4, I went to the zoo more Saturdays than not, and for years I thought the normal behavior of tigers was to pace back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. But, that is neurotic behavior seen in tigers only when in captivity.

It's a complicated issue.


Lisa Vegan Well the penguins here are mostly here to entertain visitors. They don't do tricks or anything like the poor orcas and dolphins, but their presence is supposed to be entertaining. And they are fun to watch. I don't know if Pierre would have developed his medical condition in a natural habitat but if so his quality of life, and probably his life, was definitely saved.


message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim i must have noticed this because you read it Lisa, as always you give great recommendations!


Lisa Vegan Jim wrote: "i must have noticed this because you read it Lisa, as always you give great recommendations!"

Thanks, Jim. Have you seen Pierre either at the Academy or on the penguin cam?


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