Polly and the Puffin ISBN: 9780349131900
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015
Wonderfully sensitive and beautifully written story for new young readers about a child and the injured puffin she finds and brings back to health. One night when Polly is asleep, she hears a great crash downstairs in the cottage by the sea she shares with her single mum. During a storm, a baby puffin has been thrown against the glass door and, breaking it, has fallen into the room. His wing has broken, and Polly and her mum are soon putting a splint on the wing, giving him food (he likes to eat a lot) and taking him to a vet. She pronounces him fit and says they are doing a good job of looking after him, so off they go. Polly calls the puffin Neil, and while she considers him to be her pet, her mum explains that when he is better, they will have to let him go back to the wild. Polly doesn't really understand why this should be so, but meanwhile, she and Neil become great friends. Comes the day when he shows signs of flying, Polly is pleased that he has learned to fly, while also beginning to understand that this means he must go away. Mum and Polly take Neil to a puffin sanctuary where a lady puts a blue band on his leg so that if Polly sees him again, she will know it is Neil - and then he flies with all the other penguins. Polly is bereft. She really misses Neil, and for many months keeps a watch out to sea, hoping he will return. Finally, there is a message, a black feather on the windowsill, and Polly and mum follow a trail of black feathers to a place where Neil has made a nest with his new partner, and they have produced an egg. This part of the story may be a tad unbelievable, but will be cherished by children who want to think that a wild animal wants to return to the place where he or she has been looked after. Lots of black and white pictures with chunks of orange interspersed are great in a story about penguins and are full of family love between mother and daughter and daughter and penguin and are a joy to see. There are also recipes at the end for 'Puffins' (a mixture of pancakes and muffins), Buns (because Neil liked Polly's buns) and a good recipe for making bird balls. There are lots of corny but fun jokes about penguins and other birds (Why did the puffin cross the harbour? To get to the other tide!) and, last of all, there is a description of how to make a puffin from a paper plate. All great fun and will be hugely enjoyed by youngsters - as will the story itself. This is an excellent way to teach children about loss and the fact that there are times in life when we have to give up those we love most.