The Emperor's Egg
by Martin Jenkins
illustrated by Jane Chapman

Martin Jenkins' The Emperor's Egg
Illustrated by Jane Chapman

Children's book review by Suzanne Holland

Ages 4-8

What is it about penguins that so fascinate children?

Is it the variety of sizes? After all, penguins can be quite tiny, as with the fairy penguin, or as tall as four feet, the size of an average preschooler! Is it the funny waddle, or the black and white “tuxedo”? All of these things, certainly, but I think more realistically, it is the wave of penguin movies that have captured imaginations.

Whatever the reason, after dinosaurs, I can’t think of any other animal that is quite so popular with kids. There is quite a bit of sincerely scientific knowledge embedded in these animated spectacles, but all too often children come into the classroom ready to share a “fact” that is pure Hollywood.

How can a teacher, or parent, reconcile a child’s desire for “entertainment” with authentic information? On the subject of penguins, reach for The Emperor's Egg!

Noted as an “Outstanding Science Trade Book” by the National Science Teacher’s Association, The Emperor's Egg is a terrific addition to any library. Martin Jenkins strikes just the right note. The book addresses the lifestyle of the Emperor penguin but the narrator’s voice is humorous and wry, as if he is having a conversation with the reader.

Cleverly, before the ‘story” begins, The Emperor's Eggprovides a page of basic penguin information. We learn that there are seventeen kinds of penguins but the emperor is “the only one that breeds in Antarctica in midwinter.” The female lays her egg and goes off to sea to feed while the father must keep the egg warm until it hatches. Hooray for Dads!

The story begins with the drawing of a black splotch that the reader knows will turn out to be a penguin. Once you turn the page, the word Penguin is staring at you in huge, bold faced font. The thrill of discovery nearly jumps off the page.

(The actual font is much bigger, but you get the idea!) Using this hyper sized print and clear, realistic illustrations, Jenkins and Chapman draw us right into the excitement of life on the ice.

Fatherly devotion is lauded, because we are told that the dad has nothing to eat for two months! (giant font alert) No dinner! No breakfast, lunch or snacks! Jenkins shares “I don’t know about you, but I’d be very, very miserable.” What a great conversation starter for kids!

The illustrations by Jane Chapman are wonderfully reinforcing of the frozen world. The illustration of the penguins huddled together for warmth is perfect. The icy blue and white tones, the gray glaze over the black penguins has you shiver in sympathy. The blurriness of the picture reminds me of bone chilling blizzard winds.

Page 22 is the first “awww” moment, as that is where we get a peek of that adorable ball of baby chick. Now Dad is very busy. Apparently, he is a dad of the first order as he keeps the baby warm and feeds it. (What, no diapers?) A feature I particularly like are the bits of scientific information running along the bottom of the page. It’s “just the facts, ma’am” as the more exciting voice is in the body of the text.

Finally, Mom returns. What a welcome! The noisy exchanges go on for hours! Mom takes over, and the book ends with Dad going off for a little r and r.

The Emperor's Egg by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Jane Chapman fulfills the need for good non-fiction presented in a humorous and engaging manner.

An egg-cellent book!!

Read more of Suzanne's reviews.

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