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