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My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal

My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal

2.3 3
by Sophie Webb

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What is it like to live in a tiny Polar Haven for two months? To look into the odd, expressive eyes of an Adélie chick? To be flipper-slapped by a bird whose wings are powerful enough to propel it swiftly through frigid waters? Sophie Webb knows, and she gives readers a frank firsthand account of what it is like to spend a season in a land not yet affected by


What is it like to live in a tiny Polar Haven for two months? To look into the odd, expressive eyes of an Adélie chick? To be flipper-slapped by a bird whose wings are powerful enough to propel it swiftly through frigid waters? Sophie Webb knows, and she gives readers a frank firsthand account of what it is like to spend a season in a land not yet affected by humans, yet populated for centuries by true dwellers of the Antarctic—the fearless, round-bellied, pink-footed, waddling, diving, utterly adept Adélie penguins.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Invited to Antarctica in 1996 to study Ad lie penguins, biologist and artist Webb (illustrator for A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America) returned with the makings of this intriguing if sometimes verbose journal. Peppered with piquant watercolor, gouache and graphite illustrations, the diary entries track her two-month stay in what is at times excessive detail, beginning with the account of the five-day journey from San Francisco to the U.S. base, McMurdo, on Ross Island. The incidental facts are often the most amusing: the travelers find sleep difficult due to the 24-hour daylight, they trek past Ernest Shackleton's still-intact 1908 expedition hut, and the artist discusses the difficulties of subzero weather (if a little alcohol isn't added to the paint, it turns to slush on paper). And of course once she gets to the penguins themselves, readers will be swept up in colorful and enthusiastic descriptions of their habitat, habits and antics, amplified by a generous sprinkling of artwork. Fully rendered vignettes of her subjects during an "ecstatic display" (a mating ritual), for instance, possess the deceptive ease of notebook sketches, while panoramic views, such as that from the camp down into the penguin colony, have the accomplished feel of landscape paintings. Overall, she delivers a compelling glimpse of life in a field camp, complete with lyrical descriptions ("Three Snow Petrels fly by, tracing the cliff edge in graceful arcs, brilliant white against the dark rocks and water") and gritty realism ("I forgot how much I hate going outside to pee when it's cold and windy"). Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Publishers Weekly
This biologist and artist chronicles her two-month stay in Antarctica. "A compelling glimpse of life in a field camp," wrote PW. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This outstanding book transported me back to the Antarctic summer of 1956/57 when I visited an Adelie penguin rookery near a U.S./New Zealand joint research base. The author and illustrator has produced an accessible and enjoyable account of her travels to the southern "end of the earth" while producing a fascinating introduction to one of the most highly adapted birds on our planet. Older children can learn much from this book: geography, climate, polar region hazards, survival planning, field research, the history of early polar expeditions, predator/prey relationships, and species adaptation in a severe climate. Profusely illustrated with engaging and informative illustrations, this is a wonderful resource for the classroom or homeschooling. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, $15.00. Ages 10 to 12. Reviewer: M. Henebry SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-Webb presents a great deal of scientific information through an effective blend of journal entries and illustrations. An enthusiastic traveler, she shares the trials (keeping paints from freezing in Antarctic temperatures, using a bitter-cold outhouse) and joys (seeing three snow petrels on Christmas) of her two-month expedition to study and sketch Ad lie penguins. Done in gouache and watercolor, the paintings range from scenes of mountains and moving ice to depictions of penguins engaged in typical behaviors. The art is always perfectly placed and extremely useful in interpreting the text. The one-page glossary is necessary, since some of the vocabulary is technical. By explicitly stating the questions to be studied by the scientists on the expedition, Webb offers a fine look at the scientific method in action. The artist/biologist also provides a terrific adventure for anyone who dreams of studying animals.-Ellen Heath, Orchard School, Ridgewood, NJ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Webb, an ornithologist and artist, describes and illustrates her twomonth stay at the bottom of the world, studying a breeding colony of Adélie penguins on Cape Royds, an island off the coast of Antarctica. Though the picturebook format and watercolor illustrations may attract a younger audience, the dense text is intended for uppermiddlegrade readers who will find much to savor. Most of the diary describes the daytoday activities of working scientists who were studying the nesting colonies and the dynamics of the frozen ecosystem. Webb describes the ingenious and sometimesmessy methods used to gather data; for example, in the weekly "diet sampling," penguins with full bellies are captured, filled up with water, and forced to vomit so researchers can determine what they are feeding on. New technologies are used, too, to determine what penguins eat, how far they swim, how weather conditions affect each colony, and why some colonies are growing larger while others are shrinking. There are transmitters attached to them—radio receivers, which record sounds—and electronic weigh bridges are used to determine how much they've eaten. Traditional flipper bands are still used to track movement. Throughout, there are dozens of exquisitely drawn watercolor paintings. Sometimes as many as a dozen thumbsized drawings appear on a single page, showing penguins posturing and preening or providing the reader with a sequence of events; one terrific example shows a penguin sneaking up to steal a rock from another's nest. Other fullpage paintings show the vast white and gray landscape with evidence of previous explorations, the base camp, or the dappled white and grayiceflows and ocean. The lack of an index limits the usefulness of the title for school assignments, but science enthusiasts will enjoy this attractively illustrated look at science at work. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 1014)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
File size:
24 MB
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Age Range:
9 - 11 Years

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Meet the Author

Sophie Webb is often at sea. Research ships have taken her to many shores, including those of Hawaii, Mexico, Central and South America, Alaska, and the Antarctic. Her ornithological illustrations appear in A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America, of which she is co-author. She lives in Bolinas, California.

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My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal 2.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Kathleen Sparrow More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I-Got-Seoul More than 1 year ago
Sophie Webb received a Sibert Honor in 2001 for her documentation of her time in Antarctica. This journal allows the readers to follow her journey to the cold continent, and read about her observations of the natives in the deep, deep South; the Adélie Penguins. She provides details about everything from the preparation to the living conditions. Reading her journal entries kept my entranced. She logs in every account of her two-month stay, as well as the love she felt for the penguins. The language is a little above the average elementary reading level--the illustrations and the vocabulary seem to contrast--but the book is a documentary in text.