Fishermen call it a sea parrot, even though it doesn’t really talk. Some people say it is the clown of the ocean, because of its colorful beak and unique flying style. Most of the year it lives on the sea. What is it? A puffin! It’s also the subject of Atlantic Puffin by Kristin Domm.
The instance I saw this picture book, I knew it was a must-have purchase for me–the Atlantic Puffin is our (Newfoundlanders’) provincial bird. Of course, that might not make any difference to readers outside of Newfoundland. Perhaps more importantly, therefore, is how artist Jeffrey Domm makes the ocean landscape feel alive with his vibrant palette of blue, orange, turquoise, and yellow. Quill and Quire describes the images such as bubbles streaming underwater, puffins descending a cliff, and spray coming off the ocean as being “infused with energy and excitement”. Aside from the gorgeous artwork, author Kristin Domm herself has written a fascinating tale about these funny birds, which are often confused with the penguin but who live in a different hemisphere.
What makes Kristin Domm’s tale so exceptionally well-written? The choice of a first-person voice is particularly smart. It allows the narrating puffin to sound personable: “I feel snazzy in the spring when my webbed feet and beak turn bright orange.” There’s also the conversational style, which leads naturally to engaging questions such as: “”Can you believe I sometimes carry twenty fish in my beak at once?” I also appreciate the vivid descriptions, which help Bonavista Bay come alive: “… outside the wind is howling, seabirds are screeching, and waves are crashing against the island rocks”. Last, the informational content flows seamlessly from one page to the next, all within the form of a narrative. Some facts are even presented in a humorous or lighthearted way: “It’s like we have a huge puffin reunion every summer.” Kristin Domm has achieved the perfect balance, making Atlantic Puffin both an educational and entertaining read.
If I were to raise any quibble about Atlantic Puffin, it would be that the Domms are from Nova Scotia. Normally, I avoid regional books by authors who are not native to the area. However, the Domms first encountered puffins while travelling through Newfoundland. Moreover, while Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are two separate provinces, they are both part of the larger Atlantic region. Close enough!
Atlantic Puffins (Photo credit: only_point_five)
My analysis complete, maybe you’ll forgive me if now I share with you a question. Apparently puffins tend to return to the same breeding colony, to the same mate, and to the same burrow each year. Yet the partners spend their winter apart. Why, I wonder, do they separate? Despite not being related, penguins also share this trait. When puffins meet again in the spring, they rub and clack beaks together as if they missed each other. Again I wonder, why do they separate? Nature holds its curiosities!
If you have other questions about these amazing birds, look no further than Atlantic Puffin by Kristin Domm. In it, you’ll learn about its habitat, eating favorites, mating rituals, babies, and enemies. For particularly startling facts, pay special attention to the pages about how young puffins use the bathroom and about how adults fly. As an extra bonus, the last page is written like an encyclopedia entry and contains actual photos of puffins.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
How would you rate this book?