Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive

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Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive

Category: Biography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Breathtakingly beautiful and desperately moving true story. We laughed and we cried.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: October 2016
Publisher: Canongate Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781782119791

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Cameron and his wife, Sam, had been leading a very active, adventurous life. Even after the birth of their three sons they wanted to continue their adventures, so they decided to travel to Thailand for a family holiday. They were having a brilliant time until, suddenly, Sam was involved in a dreadful, almost fatal, accident. The accident left her paralysed and, because of the sudden and extremely severe impact on her life she slid quickly into a very deep and dark depression. Cameron feared for his family's future, and his wife's life, until one day a small abandoned magpie chick came along, and managed to change everything.

I hadn't read or heard anything about this book prior to reading it, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What I found was a breathtakingly beautiful, desperately moving true story, with photographs that made me laugh and words that made me cry, and I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish the whole book in one sitting. At the point where Sam is at her most broken, Penguin Bloom arrives, a little abandoned magpie chick who needs love and round the clock care, and somehow this little bird inspires the family, and Sam in particular, with courage and strength. Penguin builds a bond with each member of the family, but her relationship with Sam becomes extremely special, with each encouraging the other when they need it most.

The story is told through both photographs and words. Sometimes the words dominate, furthering the story of Penguin's entry into the family, and sometimes it's the photographs that take precedence, and you find yourself just sitting for a long time looking at an image and thinking about all the emotion it conveys. Some of the photographs feel like family snaps, giving you an intimate view into this family's life, and other times they are more like works of art, carefully constructed with stunning colours and composition. Penguin's character chirps from every page, and we see how involved she is in family life. There are so many beautiful photographs that it is hard to just single out just a few. One of my favourites, though, shows one of Cameron and Sam's sons lying in bed reading a book, with penguin tucked in the crook of his arm, lying down looking at the book too! There is also a wonderful photo of Sam and Penguin lying down together with Sam weightlifting to build her upper body strength and Penguin is holding her own little pole with her feet!

The story is incredibly sad in places, and moved me to tears, but the overall tone of the book is uplifting and positive. It is, for the most part, a work of love, as Cameron's utter commitment to his wife, and his endless admiration for her seeps through every word and photograph, and his desperation to help her, without knowing how to do that, is very moving. At the end of the book there is an epilogue by Sam, and her own words about her paralysis, about being utterly dependent, and about her depression are very moving, and inspiring. She has thoughts for those who have also experienced spinal injuries, as well as advice for their families. She writes the truth is that in some ways you are not the person you were. More than half of your body is now just coming along for the ride. I have often felt like two-thirds of me has died, and I suspect I'll always have a small storm cloud of sadness and anger lurking over my shoulder. But so long as you have choices, then you are still your own person...It's up to you to choose how you will face the challenge and hard times ahead, and how you will seize the opportunities for creativity, productivity and happiness.

I was taken by surprise when I picked up this small, beautiful book. The bravery, of the whole family, shines through. It is interesting as an animal story for its details about how Penguin develops and grows, and about her release (or encouraged weaning from the household!), and it is interesting as a family story about the struggle to survive and cope with a terrible accident. It is part coffee-table book, part read-it-in-secret-because-you'll-cry! I found it enchanting, and would definitely recommend it.

For another story of triumph over adversity you might like to try Another Alice by Alice Peterson and for more ornithological delights, we very much enjoyed Penguins and Other Sea Birds by Matt Sewell

Booklists.jpg Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive is in the Top Ten Autobiographies and Biographies 2016.
Booklists.jpg Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive is in the Top Ten Non-Fiction Books of 2016.
Buy Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive at Amazon.com.