Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

My new favourite word – Pufflings

Posted on | February 14, 2011 | 9 Comments

Today I’m taking part again in Nonfiction Monday, a weekly carnival in the kidlitosphere celebrating the best of nonfiction books for children. My contribution is a review of Nights of the Pufflings by Bruce McMillan.

This book is also part of our Icelandic sojourn Reading Round Europe. Althought the author/photographer isn’t Icelandic himself, the book is all about an event which takes place Iceland.

Before going any further I should point out that this book ought to come with a warning: Your child will beg you to holiday in Iceland after reading this book! (And you yourself may well be tempted to say yes).

Photo: The.Rohit

Nights of the Pufflings recounts an annual event on the island of Heimaey, just off the SW coast of Iceland, when for a couple of weeks in late summer the air is thick with pufflings, young puffins, taking their first flight, from the nests of their birth out to sea.

Puffin anatomy is such that they are astonishingly skillful underwater, but not so graceful when airborn and often the pufflings don’t quite make it to the water on their first flight. And unable to take off from flat land things could look bleak for these grounded Pufflings.

Photo: Stig Nygaard

But help is at hand. The children on Heimaey come out at night at this time of year (nighttime is when the pufflings attempt their seabound flight) and gather up all the struggling pufflings in cardboard boxes and take them to the beach the following morning to send their guests on their way.

For two weeks all the children of Heimaey sleep late in the day so they can stay out at night. They rescue thousands of pufflings. There are pufflings, pufflings everywhere, and helping hands too – even though the pufflings instinctively nip at helping fingers.

This real life story is accompanied by a slew of beautiful photos of the events being described: it would seem there are few things more photogenic than puffins and Icelandic scenery. To add further local flavour, the text is peppered with Icelandic phrases, accompanied by pronunciation guides and translations, and further context is provided in the endpages with background information on both Puffins and the island of Heimaey.

This book has proved incredibly popular with my girls. For a start the pufflings are adorable, and then there is this amazing true story where kids are the heroes of the day, not only getting to actually pick up the pufflings, but to rescue them and help them. It’s a story that will definitely engage young readers.

The inclusion of additional geographical and biological information ensures that this book is a fantastic starting point for researching puffins and Iceland, and as such I can’t resist giving a copy to M’s school – “Puffins” is the name of the class she is in.

Inspired by Nights of the Pufflings we made our own flock of puffins. Printing is one of my favourite art activities – it’s such a simple thing to do but produces such great results, almost without fail (click here, here and here for some other printing activities we’ve tried).

First I traced around an image of a puffin in Nights of the Pufflings. I then transferred the tracing to a polystyrene tray and cut it out. As the trays are quite thin and tricky to pick up when they are covered in sticky ink, I glued little handles to the back of the polystyrene cut out, using old wine corks.

This was our first ever attempt at multicoloured printing. I prepared 3 pieces of polystyrene – (1) the puffin body, minus legs (2) the puffin back/wing and (3) the puffin beak and legs. The girls chose different colours for each polystyrene block and then just a little bit of attention was needed to make sure the three blocks lined up when printing.

We kept it simple, going for a graphic designy feel, (or perhaps I should say an Andy Warhol look?) and the prints turned out wonderfully bold and bright!


Nights of the Pufflings: I find grading nonfiction books a little harder than fiction. The topic can often be so specific as to make it hard for me to give a book 3 stars – a grading I generally use when I think absolutely everyone ought to get their own copy of a book as it will be worth it’s weight for an entire lifetime. However, I can’t imagine how this book could have been better, and on that basis it’s a 3 star book.

Whilst printing our puffins we listened to:

  • The Night of the Pufflings by Sam Jones, inspired by the very book I’ve reviewed here today!

  • The Puffin Song by Tom Knight

  • It’s Oh So Quiet by Björk (who’s from Iceland)


  • Instead of making puffin prints we could have done any of the following alongside reading these lovely puffin books:

  • Learning more about Puffins – Bruce McMillan has a great page with lots of resources for learning all about puffins.

  • Getting our act together and joining Puffin Post, “The best children’s book magazine in the world“. A subscription to this would make a fantastic birthday present for any kid you know.

  • Enjoy dreaming about owning this gorgeous puffin bag from Etsy seller barfbag.


  • This week’s host for Nonfiction Monday is Roberta at Wrapped in Foil. Do visit her blog and see what other great nonfiction books for kids are being talked about in the blogosphere this week.

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    Comments

    9 Responses to “My new favourite word – Pufflings”

    1. Anamaria
      February 14th, 2011 @ 12:41 am

      Those prints are just gorgeous! And now I want to read about pufflings, too!

    2. Zoe
      February 14th, 2011 @ 7:13 am

      We were all pretty pleased with how the prints turned out, Anamaria! As I said I love printing as it produces great results with minimal skill ;-)

    3. Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook
      February 15th, 2011 @ 5:44 am

      Puffling just might become my new favourite baby animal name. Although I still love puggle, a baby echidna. And I admire those wonderful printed puffins very much!

    4. Zoe
      February 15th, 2011 @ 6:09 am

      Aah! I didn’t know puggle – what a lovely word. Wouldn’t “Puggle and Puffling” make a lovely title for a great picture book?!

    5. Amy Pertl-Clark
      February 15th, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

      What adorable prints!!! I am looking forward to trying printing with Emmy and sharing all about the puffins.

    6. Roberta
      February 15th, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

      What lovely photos and a great project! Your post reminded me of a bird alphabet book my son used to love. The first bird in the book was Atlantic puffin. Makes me want to go to Iceland, too. :-)

    7. Zoe
      February 16th, 2011 @ 6:21 am

      Thanks Roberta. I’ve once seen a puffin briefly in flight, in Orkney, but would love to see more. Especially in Iceland!

    8. Zoe
      February 16th, 2011 @ 6:23 am

      Oh do trying printing Amy – as I said, I just love doing it with the girls. And it’s really good for occasions when you have to make lots of cards eg Christmas time – you get lovely cards relatively quickly and easily.

    9. Fabulous Friday Fun #57… » se7en
      February 19th, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

      [...] over to Playing by the Book to see my favorite, favorite bird that I fully intend to see in my lifetime!!! Miracles do [...]

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