Email this review


Total penguins is really what we have here: a scholarly yet wonderfully irreverent rundown, with photographs galore, of all the genera and species from the smallest 16-inch-high little blue or fairy penguins native to Australia to the four-foot-tall emperors who reign in Antarctica, with stop-offs in South Africa, the Galápagos, and points south. Dearest to Gorman (The Man with No Endorphins, 1988) are the rock-hoppers found on the Falklands and comparable islands: your typical black-and-white number, but with startling yellow brows (making them ""crested"" penguins). They do indeed hop and are terrific cliff divers. Overall, the good news is that penguins are fascinating to study. They are flightless birds that have been around for millions of years and are extraordinarily well adapted to their terrains. Their true element is not land, however, but water, which they navigate not by swimming but by flying, moving their short, hard flippers like wings attached to their beautifully aerodynamically designed torsos. The bad news is that they're not dear sweet gentlemen in evening clothes. ""Rather, they stand around mating, pecking, and batting each other with their flippers like agitated toddlers."" Nasty, determined, feisty, aggressive, ill-mannered. . .are the adjectives that apply to birds whose calls are noisy, deafening, raucous, strident ""arks"" or jackass brays. And the filth: ""the other overwhelming reality of penguin life [is] the odor of excrement."" Penguins ""simply stand in their own accumulating guano,"" and feed and mate and nurture their eggs, and so on. So the penguin is revealed, warts and all, but emerges in Gorman's fine style and Frans Lanting's 90 full-color, elegant photographs (some seen) as a creature worthy of our admiration (but perhaps not up close).

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1990
Publisher: Prentice Hall Press