Professor Penguin, by Lloyd Spencer Davis

Up until I had read this book, the best information I could give you on penguins was that they speak with funny squeaks and get up to all kinds of mischief. For Pingu fans, you will be horribly disappointed in this book. However, if real, live penguins and pretty much every single practical thing to do with them are of interest to you, then you are on the right track here.

Professor Penguin, A.K.A Lloyd Spencer Davis, has dedicated close to 40 years of his life to the wonderfully entertaining and interesting bird that is the penguin. Now that’s no easy undertaking, as these birds don’t tend to hang out in the most hospitable of places. They don’t fly North for the winter, they just sit it out; they don’t even appear on heat pump ads.

What would motivate someone to spend so much of their life studying in such surrounds? It happened by chance, but then slowly grew into a lifetime obsession. Don’t buy this book merely expecting a wiki on penguins, it also details the author’s life as well as the interesting history of the men and women like him that have spent countless days, months and years on the sea, ice or some sub Antarctic island studying these birds.

The book is best described as a behind-the-scenes exposé into the lengths to which nature enthusiasts will go to study penguins, and then go on to become scholars and leaders in their fields. Spencer Davis brilliantly intertwines animal fact with humorous anecdotes of his time spent observing penguins. In fact, in some cases one could be forgiven for thinking they were reading a comedy script for some upcoming movie. The author’s candid and matter of fact way of reporting ice bound hi-jinks make for very entertaining reading. Entertaining, as well as enlightening, as you get a clear picture of the very human nature of both the birds and the people watching them.

Tales of the ‘honey bucket’; the original meaning of being ‘green’ and other events unique to life in Antarctica are shared. As a result, the reader gains more than just a bunch of interesting facts. They are taken along on the ride.

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Drew Thompson Drew operates a successful hobby farm for pampered cattle in rural South Auckland. He once dabbled in education, where he discovered any book was a good book. As with most ex-teachers, he realised he was better off spending his time and patience on his own awesome children.

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