The best penguin books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about penguins and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Penguins! Strange and Wonderful

Penguins! Strange and Wonderful

By Laurence Pringle, Meryl Learnihan Henderson (illustrator),

Why this book?

This wonderful book is informative, very comprehensive, and visually stunning. It covers everything from the first recorded penguins, to their locations, their feeding and breeding behaviors, their predators, and the various threats to penguins - both historically and in the present. But this is in no way a dry, “just the facts, ma'am” book about penguins. The scientific information about penguin biology and behavior is told in a very engaging way, and it is enhanced by absolutely gorgeous and lifelike watercolor illustrations. This book provides a thorough, age-appropriate overview of the lives of penguins, and is one of my favorite…

From the list:

The best nonfiction books about penguins for kids

Book cover of A Visual Introduction to Penguins

A Visual Introduction to Penguins

By Bernard Stonehouse, Martin Camm (illustrator),

Why this book?

This beautiful book is written by a famous penguin expert who wrote the ‘bible’ about penguins for adults, so you can be absolutely certain that all of the information is 100% accurate! (Which, unfortunately, is not always the case for books written by individuals who aren’t penguin experts. That said, you can be assured that every book on this curated list has extremely accurate information about penguins!) Each species in this book has a page with fact sheets, geographical ranges, and biological details. There are also numerous photos and absolutely gorgeous illustrations that are highly detailed, bringing the author’s words…

From the list:

The best nonfiction books about penguins for kids

Book cover of Smithsonian Q & A: Penguins: The Ultimate Question & Answer Book

Smithsonian Q & A: Penguins: The Ultimate Question & Answer Book

By Lloyd Spencer Davis,

Why this book?

This is an incredibly informative and fun book! The author is a field researcher who has written many books about penguins - all imbued with his cheeky sense of humor. The Q&A format makes this book easily digestible for both adults and kids. Each themed chapter has many questions that are answered with a few paragraphs and photos. The answers are both detailed and succinct. The Q&A format even works well for those with dementia. When my father had Alzheimer’s, and could no longer comprehend what he was reading, he actually read this book for a few solid hours, often…

From the list:

The best nonfiction books about penguins for adults

Book cover of The Penguins: Spheniscidae (Bird Families of the World, No. 2)

The Penguins: Spheniscidae (Bird Families of the World, No. 2)

By Tony D. Williams, J.N. Davies (illustrator), John Busby (illustrator)

Why this book?

For serious penguin geeks, this book has long been the penguin bible. If you’re looking for scientifically accurate information about the biology and behavior of each penguin species, this is a fantastic reference book. Written by a leading ornithologist who has done field research on penguins, The Penguins gives a very comprehensive overview of each species, with detailed information about everything from breeding biology, to foraging ecology, to physical measurements, and much more. There are many illustrations and graphs as well. (The Penguins is manna for natural-science geeks and hard-core bird nerds.)

From the list:

The best nonfiction books about penguins for adults

Book cover of Penguins: Natural History and Conservation

Penguins: Natural History and Conservation

By Pablo Garcia Borboroglu (editor), P. Dee Boersma (editor),

Why this book?

This phenomenal book is the new penguin bible for penguin aficionados! Edited by renowned penguin experts, P. Dee Boersma and Pablo Garcia Borboroglu, this comprehensive and highly informative book provides updated scientific information about penguin biology and behavior. Each species has its own dedicated chapter written by a field researcher who studies that species - so you couldn’t ask for a more expert resource for each penguin. Penguins covers everything from breeding, to foraging, to measurements, and much more. It also details the current threats, and conservation efforts to protect each species. Just about anything you’d ever want to know…

From the list:

The best nonfiction books about penguins for adults

Book cover of Spill: Saving Africa's Oiled Penguins

Spill: Saving Africa's Oiled Penguins

By International Fund for Animal Welfare,

Why this book?

This is the only other book for adults (besides mine) about the world’s largest animal rescue, when 40,000 penguins were rescued from the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. Spill is written by six individuals from various organizations who headed up this groundbreaking rescue effort. At just 96 pages, and featuring numerous dramatic photos, this 8x12” softcover is more of a coffee table book. The riveting stories are all told by rescuers who were on the front lines of this historic event. The compelling photographs by award-winning photographer, Jon Hrusa, bring the reader face to face with the…

From the list:

The best nonfiction books about penguins for adults

Book cover of The Emperor Lays an Egg

The Emperor Lays an Egg

By Brenda Z. Guiberson, Joan Paley (illustrator),

Why this book?

This charming book gives a very comprehensive overview of the life and breeding cycle of the Emperor penguin. And it does so in simple - but entertaining - language, making the information very accessible for younger children. The large, graphic illustrations on each page are very eye-catching, and are sure to engage young children. (Even younger than the recommended age range for this book.) While this book talks about the many challenges that both parents face during the long breeding season, it focuses more on the male penguin’s job of incubating and protecting the egg while his mate is off…

From the list:

The best nonfiction books about penguins for kids

Book cover of Cat Problems

Cat Problems

By Jory John, Lane Smith (illustrator),

Why this book?

The narrator of Cat Problems is a cynical, bad-tempered, ungrateful cat (sounds a lot like my cat, Stanley), wonderfully drawn by the brilliant Lane Smith. After the cat’s litany of complaints, a nosy squirrel tries to teach him (and the reader) a lesson about gratitude, but the cat just ignores him. And I love that! Sometimes, you don’t need a lesson, you just need to laugh—and you will!

From the list:

The best funny picture books about cats

Book cover of Vampenguin

Vampenguin

By Lucy Ruth Cummins,

Why this book?

To encourage young readers to think critically, Vampenguin is a good choice. The misdirection isn’t quite so obvious. A family of vampires is at the zoo. The smallest vampire gets switched with a penguin (hilarious drawings make this sleight-of-hand possible). The child reader can see what the family in the story doesn’t—their “baby” is actually a penguin. Even better, the baby vampire and the penguin switch themselves back and the family never finds out. Once again, the young reader has out-smarted everyone by thinking critically. Nice!

From the list:

The best books to improve kids’ critical thinking

Book cover of The Old Man and the Penguin: A True Story of True Friendship

The Old Man and the Penguin: A True Story of True Friendship

By Julie Abery, Pierre Pratt (illustrator),

Why this book?

The Old Man and the Penguin is based on a TRUE story of how a Brazilian man, João Pereira de Souza, rescued and cared for a Magellanic penguin caught in an oil spill. It’s 1-part rhymed picture book + 1-part fascinating nonfiction + 2-parts sweet story of friendship that shows the importance of environmental awareness and stewardship. I can see kids reading it over and over, like I have. I bet it would start wonderful discussions about how human activities often threaten Earth’s wildlife—and how we might change that. 

From the list:

The best picture books to help make Earth Day every day

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