Reviews /

Protecting the Planet: Emperor of the Ice

Authored by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Catherine Rayner
Published by Walker Books

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Protecting the Planet: Emperor of the Ice: Vibrant and enlightening, Protecting the Planet: Emperor of the Ice tells a year in the life of an Empress penguin, her mate and their chick. The pages, awash with water-colour, follow the penguin as she finds a mate, lays an egg (which she quickly entrusts to her mate to incubate whilst she goes back to sea for ten weeks) and then makes the treacherous journey home. Although the story of two penguins collaborating against the odds to care for their vulnerable chick sounds romantic, Nicola Davies sensitively includes harsh realities that face this species: ‘But there are pools of silence… Some males have starved; some females did not make it back. And some eggs have frozen. A reminder that Antarctica is a tough place to survive.’

Dr Phil Trathan, climate scientist, has been enlisted to write the foreword which explains to readers about the role satellites play in tracking emperor penguin colonies. His description of how and why climate change is forcing colonies to relocate is clear and concise: perfect for reading with KS2 children. A double-page spread at the end of the book reiterates this message whilst examining a little further what is meant by climate change and what children can do to help.

The dynamic pairing of Nicola Davies and Catherine Rayner make this book the success it is. I can imagine many children picking it up and reading it purely for pleasure as well as it being used as a focus study for a KS2 class. The vocabulary is an enticing blend of metaphorical, ‘…lines of penguins and their shadows, like spidery writing across a blank page,’ as well as scientific, ‘downy coat.’ This combination is, as Nicola Davies always manages, to be pitched exactly right and will be accessible for many children whether reading independently or with an adult.