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  • Writer's picturemeredithdownes

Pinquo, the Penguin Hero

Pinquo starts with an ominous warning – a prologue that tells us the main character, a cute and no doubt lovable penguin we are about to meet in its pages, is going to die a heroic death. This warning hangs over the reader throughout the book until the inevitable happens. Even with that warning, I wasn’t prepared.

Most people are familiar with Colin Thiele’s most famous book for kids, Storm-Boy, an Australian children’s classic and now a film (again). Recently, I stumbled across a tattered hard cover of Pinquo and my interest was piqued. While Pinquo shares a lot in common with Storm-Boy – children befriending rescued animals, the seaside setting – Pinquo is a somewhat different kind of tale although sadly follows to a similar end.

The book is very much about the rescue itself and the fate of Pinquo though told from the perspective of his human rescuers. So we are left in the dark as to what is actually going on in Pinquo’s head. (This is not a talking animal tale.) And like a lot of books that feature science being written at the moment, facts are heavily interweaved with story to the point where they are the story in parts – you will come out of this knowing a lot more about penguins than you did going in! Still, Pinquo is an enjoyable read and the human side of it recreates that idyllic uniquely Australian world of the last century that you can find in the author’s other books.

Given the heavy focus on science and fact, perhaps it isn’t any wonder that there was no fairy tale ending for this fairy penguin. Instead, the author paints a tragic picture of how environmental disaster can impact marine life. Who needs bogeymen and villains when reality can be just as terrifying? Many tears were shed over poor little Pinquo.


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