Puffling Patrol

By Rachel Cotterill Book Reviews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Travelling round Iceland in the summer of 2006, we spent a couple of wonderful days on the small island of Heimaey. In a little cafe by the harbour, we spotted some colourful signs with numbers counting down the days to… something. We didn’t know what. When we asked the proprietor, expecting perhaps a sporting event or a festival, we were surprised to learn about pufflings (baby puffins) and how they regularly get confused by the lights and fly into town. The countdown was for the beginning of the annual puffling rescue season, when the local children go out at night to pick up lost birds and return them to the sea.

Remembering that trip, and considering that puffins are my favourite bird, I knew I’d love this book as soon as I heard the title. It’s fair to say I had high expectations, but the beautiful illustrations surpassed even my hopes, capturing in vivid detail everything from the windswept coastlines to the urban landscape - and, of course, the birds themselves - just as I remembered them. The narrative begins as an account of the authors’ experiences visiting Iceland, and gradually moves to focus more closely on two children taking part in the Puffling Patrol. But this is a book of few words: the gorgeous pictures do most of the talking.

As well as the story of the puffling rescue, there are a couple of pages of puffin facts at the end. I was sad to learn that the puffin population on Heimaey has been decreasing - with the result that only ten pufflings were found and rescued in 2010 (from about 1600 in ‘07). I’d been hoping to return one day in the rescue season; if that’s now less likely to be possible, then I’m doubly glad that the story has been captured for posterity in this beautiful book.