Penguins and Other Sea Birds by Matt Sewell

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Penguins and Other Sea Birds by Matt Sewell

Category: Animals and Wildlife
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Short pieces on fifty penguins and seabirds by Matt Sewell, whose also supplies the gorgeous minimalist watercolours. Pocket-sized and highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: March 2016
Publisher: Ebury Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785032226

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I've always been fascinated by Penguins: I think it's because they look so smart and striking, yet survive in extreme conditions, so the opportunity to review a book which contains fifty penguins and other seabirds was too good to miss. Just the pictures would have been enough - the minimalist watercolours of street artist and ornithologist Matt Sewell - but Sewell's whimsical wit and ability to teach without being preachy makes this a book to treasure.

I recently spotted a red kite at reasonably close quarters and I was shocked by the size and wingspan. However much you read about birds and despite studying the measurements it's often difficult to get a grip on just how they're sized. Sewell deals with this perfectly. Let me tell you what he has to say about the Emperor Penguin:

In his Olympic wetsuit, with eyes darker than Ozzy Osbourne's Ray-Bans, the Emperor is the biggest and heaviest of all known penguins - weighing the same as a fat Labrador retriever and standing just as tall as the dog on its back legs.

There - you can picture the bird perfectly, can't you? No measurement of size or weight - just something unfortunately far too common which anyone can visualise. Then there's information about the breeding patterns (Dad incubates the eggs on top of his feet and inside the brood pouch and Mum takes over when the chick is hatched) and how they gather food. All you need to know on one side of paper and on the opposite page a picture of the penguin (that's him on the top left of the cover) and his chick. Multiply this by fifty, except for the chick (there's only a couple in the book) and you'll have some idea of how good this book is.

There's a bonus at the back of the book - a section called spotting and jotting, with the pictures of the birds repeated and you can tick them off as you see them - a sort of I Spy book for adults. I can see this being used too - the hardback book is of a size which fits with no trouble into a backpack or a pocket and will stand some travelling.

I've a minor quibble about the book: there's no index. I have an outing planned to the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs on the east coast of Yorkshire with the intention of seeing the puffins and I wanted to see if there was something about the bird, but there was no way of finding out quickly. The bird is there but the only way to find it was by reading through the contents which are not in alphabetical order. Yes, I know. I'm picky.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

We think you might also enjoy Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? by Mick O'Hare which deals with this knotty problem and many others. For more from the sea have a look at Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us by David Neiwert. You might also appreciate learning about how wildlife is photographed in The Adventure Game: A Cameraman's Tales from Films at the Edge by Keith Partridge. One of our favourite bird books is The Magic and Mystery of Birds by Noah Strycker.

Buy Penguins and Other Sea Birds by Matt Sewell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Penguins and Other Sea Birds by Matt Sewell at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Penguins and Other Sea Birds by Matt Sewell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Penguins and Other Sea Birds by Matt Sewell at Amazon.com.


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