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Children's Fiction Friendship

Old Man and the Penguin, The

A True Story of True Friendship

by (author) Julie Abery

illustrated by Pierre Pratt

Kids Can Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2020
Friendship, Birds, Caribbean & Latin America
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 3 to 7
  • Grade: p to 2
  • Reading age: 3 to 7


Told in rhyming verse, this is the touching true story of an oil-soaked penguin, the man who rescues him and an unlikely friendship.

João hears “a sorry screech” as he walks along the shore near his home. It's from a penguin, whose feathers are soaked in oil.

Too tired to swim, too weak to stand, he's barely moving on the sand. João must save this little guy. Without his help, he'll surely die.

João takes the penguin home. He cleans him, feeds him and nurses him slowly back to health --- and the pair develop a special bond. When the penguin is fully recovered, João knows it's time to return him to the wild where he belongs. But the penguin has other ideas ...

Told in rhyming verse, this heartwarming picture book tells the true story of João Pereira de Souza of Brazil, who cared for a Magellanic penguin that had been caught in an oil spill. When João tried to release him back to the wild, the penguin returned to João's home and stayed for months. The penguin, named Dindim by João, did eventually leave, but he now returns to visit his friend for five months of every year. A charming read-aloud showcasing a tender relationship between an animal and human, this book also promotes environmental awareness and stewardship, and explains how human activities often threaten wildlife. Author Julie Abery includes information about João and the penguin, how wildlife is affected by oil spills every year, and what to do if you find wildlife in distress. The lively art by award-winning Pierre Pratt brings a touching sweetness and emotional depth to the story. There are character education lessons here on empathy, kindness and caring.

About the authors

Julie Abery is a children's author and early childhood educator. Originally from England, she has spent half of her life living in Europe, immersing herself in new languages and cultures. She currently lives in Switzerland.

Julie Abery's profile page

Pierre Pratt's profile page


  • Winner, Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, Booklist

Editorial Reviews

The Old Man and the Penguin, a warm story of an unusual friendship, will be well-received by its young listeners/readers.

CM Magazine

Few readers will be able to resist this charming tale, based on true events.

Booklist, starred review

An entertaining introduction for young readers to the harmful effects of oil spills on marine wildlife.

Kirkus Reviews

Other titles by Pierre Pratt