Little Brown Books for Young Readers (publisher) ISBN: 978-0-349-13190-0
‘Polly heard a CRASH downstairs.
Was it a monster? NO!
Was it a spider alien? NO!
It was a little puffin with a broken wing…’
This is the sweetest book I have read in a long time. Polly and the Puffin is an ideal book for emerging young readers. It is perfect for little hands but still looks and feels like a chapter book.
The story is carefully written, considering imaginative detail alongside the reality of the context. So, whilst the little puffin is getting up to all sorts of mischief and eating rather a lot of sticky buns, much to the joy of Polly, his rescuer, the fact that he is a wild animal that needs to get better and then be returned to his home is never ignored. Jenny Colgan uses ‘Mummy’ as the voice of reason. Mummy helps Polly to care for the little puffling and takes him to the vets, but gently reminds Polly that she can not keep the puffin forever. Thomas Docherty’s illustrations, which use a monochromatic colour palette with just a splash of orange, are an absolute delight, making the little puffin utterly charming. I fell in love with Neil – the puffin – from his very first ‘eep.’
Throughout the story there is a growing bond between Polly and Neil so when it is time for him to return to the sea, Polly feels a great sense of loss. Children will certainly be able to relate to how Polly feels and this could lead to valuable class discussions: Polly loves the puffin and knows that it is best for him to go so why is she so sad? How does Mummy comfort Polly? Why did Polly let the puffin go if she loved him? This book could also be a wonderful start to a project on puffins or seabirds more generally. With lower Key Stage 2 children, 'Polly and the Puffin' would be an excellent starting point for looking at keeping wild animals in captivity, exploring zoos, sanctuaries and the different work that they do. Children could debate whether or not Polly should have kept Neil or write a letter to Polly to help persuade her that Neil should be returned to the wild sea.
If the delightful story is not enough, Polly and the Puffin has an extra something special that makes it stand apart from other books. The back of the book is filled with treats: recipes, jokes and craft activities. Each page is also sprinkled with puffin facts. All of these activities could easily be done at home or even within the classroom (a host of readymade cross-curricular activities).
My 6-year old niece devoured this book at bed time. She loved all of the extras at the back, especially the jokes (she giggled herself to sleep that night).