BOOKS: Snowball’s Antarctic Adventures

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2011:

Snowball’s Antarctic Adventures
by Tim Ostermeyer
Ostermeyer Photography (1813 Country Brook Lane,
Allen, TX 75002), 2011. 48 pages, hardcover. $18.95.

Snowball’s Antarctic Adventures, a new children’s book from
photographer Tim Ostermeyer, is about penguins. Odd-shaped birds,
penguins do not lift off and fly like the swallows and swifts who are
among their closest relatives. Instead they alternate between
swimming astonishing distances at astonishing speeds and waddling
around the ice flapping their stubby wings. Sometimes they lie on
their bellies and slide on the ice.

Emperor penguins grow to four feet tall and weigh about 80
pounds. Other penguin species are much smaller, but all penguins
feed mostly on shrimp krill and small fish. Ostermeyer notes that
some penguins may walk 70 miles from their nesting habitat to reach
unfrozen sea where they can seek food, and that Antarctic
penguins–unlike the penguins of Africa and South American–are not
known to live on land.
Ostermeyer’s color photos of penguins and their Antarctic
home are magnificent, a treat for young readers. I am troubled,
though, about the lack of discussion in Snowball’s Antarctic
Adventures about the harmful effects of climate change on penguins
and other Antarctic species. I even re-read the book to make sure I
didn’t miss something.
Among effects on penguins already observed for a decade or
more are the loss of much of the Antarctic ice shelf where penguins
live, shifts of ocean currents that have moved fish and krill
farther from penguin nesting habitat, and acidification as result of
more carbon dioxide forming in the ocean than the natural alkalinity
of sea water can buffer. Tiny crustaceans such as krill are among
the species most likely to be affected by more acid oceans.
Grade school children can certainly appreciate climate change
and the need for prompt action. Discussing climate change may run
afoul of the politics involved in selections of school library books,
but Ostermeyer appears to have underestimated children’s ability to
understand climate change and take action.
–Debra J. White

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