Review: An Old Man and his Penguin

An Old Man and His Penguin. How Dindim made Joao Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin. (2020). Written by Alayne Kay Christian and Illustrations by Milanka Reardon. Stamford, TX: Blue Whale Press, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing.

This delightful picture book is the true story of Joao Pereira de Souza, the penguin he rescued, and how Joao became an “honorary penguin.”

–Take a peek at this brief book trailer video on YouTube!  

–Find a discussion of language related to the word “old” at the bottom of this post.

Joao was a retired bricklayer living by the ocean in Brazil. One day when Joao was walking on the beach he found a penguin who was covered in oil and near death.

Joao took the penguin home and called him Dindim. Day after day he gently cleaned Dindim and fed him sardines. Dindim grew strong and healthy. Every morning he liked getting a shower. He and Joao would splash in the surf and swim in the ocean together.

Young readers will be charmed by the details included by author Alayne Kay Christian. Dindim became part of the family. He would nap in a fishing net hammock surrounded by Joao’s dog and chickens. He followed Joao everywhere he went. The people in the town became used to seeing them together.

Joao loved Dindim like a son and Dindim loved Joao as if he were another penguin.”

Joao was worried that Dindim needed penguin friends so he took Dindim to an island—but Dindim swam back to Joao.

The friends continued to stroll the coastline together, swim together, and fish together until one day Dindim disappeared. Joao was sad to see his friend go but hoped he would find penguin friends. The villagers said the penguin will not come back—but months later Dindim did come back. He walked right up to Joao. Dindim was thin from his journey. Joao fed him and made him fat and strong again.

Dindim would go in and out of Joao’s house as he pleased and liked to cool down in Joao’s shower. The two of them walked through the village together and people enjoyed seeing them. Dindim would give Joao penguin kisses. Beautiful art by Milanka Reardon adds so much to the delightful story.

Then one day Dindim was gone.

Joao wondered if he would ever see his friend again—but Dindim did return. Now each year in June, Dindim returns to be with his friend. He leaves again each year in February.

No one is sure where Dindim goes when each year. Some think that he may be making the 5000-mile round trip to Patagonia in South Argentina where penguins go to breed! Dindim is tagged, so one thing is sure–it is the same penguin who returns each year to his honorary penguin friend.

Children and adults alike will warm to this true story of a compassionate human/animal bond, stewardship, and an environmental message. Sign up today for the author’s November–Random Acts of Kindness Challenge. Click here. Prizes for writers and readers!

Purchase An Old Man and his Penguin.

Book reviewed by Sandra McGuire R.N., Ed.D. (Photos used with permission of the author.)

     A brief discussion of language related to “old”—

Author Alayne Kay Christian: “Even though the title ‘Old Man’ is a bit of a stereotype or might be viewed as negative by some, next to a young penguin, that’s what he is. However, I think Joao stands out in a way that will tweak attitudes and help nip ageism in the bud.”

A is for Aging—Lindsey McDivitt: “Old Man” doesn’t bother me at all. To be honest, I feel a bit frustrated with terms like “young at heart” and those similar. I believe we use them to avoid the fact of being old, and all because of ageism and the stigma associated with old in our society. “Old” is not a bad word. To be old is a testament to survival. Old can go along with many positive, happy and satisfied attributes. No doubt both Joao and late blooming author Alayne Kay Christian will agree.

This picture book shows kids a delightful example of an old person enjoying life and making a difference in the life of one little penguin. Personally I believe we need to take back the word “old,” own it, and challenge the negative connotations.

From author and activist Ashton Applewhite: (on ageism and age stereotypes)

“A good place to start is by jettisoning some language. “The elderly”? Yuck, partly because I’ve never heard anyone use the word to describe themselves. Also because “elderly” comes paired with “the,” which implies membership in some homogenous group. “Seniors”? Ugh. “Elders” works in some cultures but feels alien to me, and I don’t like the way it implies that people deserve respect simply by virtue of their age; children, too, deserve respect.

Since the only unobjectionable term used to describe older people is “older people,” I’ve shortened the term to “olders” and use it, along with “youngers,” as a noun. It’s clear and value-neutral, and it emphasizes that age is a continuum. There is no old/young divide. We’re always older than some people and younger than others.”

Excerpt from This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite.

     ***What are YOUR thoughts on language around being old or older? Please consider sharing in the comments.

Find Ashton’s informative and highly readable book here. Read more of the excerpt at Bioneers.

For more perfect picture book reviews & recommendations visit Susanna Hill’s Website.

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11 Responses to Review: An Old Man and his Penguin

  1. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    What a heartwarming story! Animals know when they are cared for. Will see if our library has this one, so I can take a peek. Thanks for the rec!

    • lindseymcd says:

      I love the new insights into animal minds we gain from stories like this don’t you? Thanks for your comment!

  2. I was fascinated when I heard about this story. I am looking forward to getting it from my library. Waiting with all the other holds. Interesting discussion on “old.”

  3. What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing this book.

    Language is interesting, isn’t it. I agree with you – let’s use the term “older.”
    I did a school visit last week and the students wanted to know how old I was when I first published a book. I answered that I was a grandmother when I finally got published. Seems old, right? But I don’t feel old.

    • lindseymcd says:

      Kids struggle with perceptions of age don’t they Claire! Yes, I think “older” might help with that also. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. Wow! I love Alayne’s new book. I’ve been looking for books that show the unlikely relationships between animals for grandkids. And, this one is a real life story about a man and his relationship with a Penguin. It’s fascinating that the Penguin has a tracker on it. LOVE this book. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Nancy says:

    I found the excerpts and artwork wonderful. As for the review, I took note of the language and agreed. Years ago I told my younger supervisor to not call me a “senior citizen.” Her response was, “You are a senior and you are a citizen.” My rejoinder was “Yes, but I am not a “senior citizen.” (and I am still working) I especially liked the Ashton Applewhite quotes and will look into her book. I will purchase this book for my grand-children.

    • lindseymcd says:

      Nancy, thanks for your comment! And apologies I didn’t note till now that it needed “approving” on the blog.
      I appreciate your insights!

  6. Nancy Sue Arick says:

    BTW, there is a known anecdote by those who were there that the studio was so hot when filming the entertaining “I’m Going Slightly Mad” (QUEEN), a thinly veiled reference to what Freddie’s illness was doing to his mind and in spite of the severity of his illness by that time (thus, his make-up and costuming), Freddie took cold water to the penguins during the breaks. Brian May’s walk with the penguin was entirely entertaining and, of course, Dr. Bri is known for his animal rescue and love of all animals. The penguin relieving himself while sitting between Roger and Freddie is one of the funniest of rock video out-takes.

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