Puffling Patrol by Ted and Betsy Lewin
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: I’m always a sucker for books about rescued wildlife but even the most indifferent of hearts will be charmed by Puffling Patrol (Lee & Low 2012), the latest from the award-winning Lewins. At the end of summer, adult puffins leave their babies and and fly away to spend the winter in the northern seas. The youngsters spend their first two years in the sea – but first they have to get there! Heimaey Island off the coast of Iceland is home to one of the largest puffin breeding colonies in the world but it is also home to a population of 4300 people who mostly fish for a living. The lights of the town are confusing to the young puffins – pufflings – as they leave their nests and fly to the sea. So some of the babies end up in the wrong place. They aren’t strong enough yet to take off from the flat ground and they are in danger from cars, cats, dogs and other town hazards. Enter the Puffling Patrol – a group of children who patrol the town at night to rescue the babies.
Betsy and Ted Lewin traveled to Iceland to witness the Puffling Patrol and to learn about the lives of these enchanting birds. Traveling on patrol with 8-year old twins, Erna and Dani, the Lewins share the experience with young readers using beautiful two-page watercolor illustrations and detailed pen and ink sketches. Some of the little birds can be released the next day but some need to get a little bigger and stronger. Visits to the breeding burrows with researchers and to the Natural History Museum add background information on the birds and end pages provide Atlantic Puffin Facts, a Glossary and Pronunciation Guide and information on the puffin’s habitat, endangered status and other resources.
Our focus group – 8-year-old twins themselves – were captivated by the entire book as was I and they were ready to pack their bags and get their tickets for Iceland. There are three of us here in Michigan ready and willing to help when it next “rains pufflings.”
This is a wonderful book to use when studying the subject of global warming, environmental change and the impact of population on ecosystems. Ask students to describe what they learned in this book from both the text and the illustrations. Read Bruce McMillan’s Nights of the Puffling (Houghton 1995) and ask the students to compare and contrast the information in the two books. Or ask young readers to research one type of local wildlife and learn if it is impacted by people. Brainstorm ways they might help.