The Penguines

One day, Jane Smith, age 7, from Barcelona, Spain, was alone in her room. Her friends Lucas, Matija and Mary weren’t able to come to play and she was bored, so she invented a game which she could play alone. Jane had always liked penguins and this was her chance to pretend she was one of them.
She started to walk around her room like a penguin.

She shut her eyes hard and wished with all her heart to emerge among the penguins. All of a sudden, she started to feel cold air on her cheeks and hear strange sounds. She quickly opened her eyes only to discover that she was standing in the middle of a penguin colony!
“Hello, Jane! Welcome to the land of the penguins!” a voice nearby said.

Jane turned to see a friendly looking man standing next to her. “How did I get here?” Jane wondered.
“You passed through the door of imagination,” answered the man. “Everyone who wishes for something hard enough can make it come true.”
Jane was curious. “And who are you?” she asked.
“My name is Pengui. It is my job and great pleasure to acquaint you with the penguins,” Pengui answered.

Jane became very excited. “I’d love that,” she said. “Penguins walk like people, swim like fish and yet they are birds! That has always puzzled me!”
Pengui laughed.
“There are eighteen different species of penguins living south of the Equator. As you’ve said before, they are birds, but they lost their ability to fly millions of years ago. Their wings developed into flippers, which serve as paddles in the water,” he said.

These flippers and the webbed feet, make penguins marvelous swimmers and divers. They have oily, thickly-packed feathers which keep heat in and water out,” Pengui said.
Jane looked around. “I always thought that penguins were much smaller than these,” she said.
“The penguins you see here are the Emperor penguins. They are the tallest. Other kinds which are not as tall are the Yellow-Eyed Penguin, the Royal Penguin,
the Jackass Penguin, the Rock hopper Penguin and many more. The smallest is the so-called Little Blue Penguin,” explained Pengui.

Jane remembered something. “I like best the way they walk,” she said.

“They can’t fly and their short legs make them clumsy on land. When they have to move fast, they toboggan on their bellies,” explained Pengui. “All penguins live by the sea in large groups, called rookeries. They catch fish and squid to eat. They can live up to 30 years if sea lions and whales don’t attack them,” he continued.
Jane asked if they resemble people in any other way besides walking.

Pengui said, “In the winter, the Emperor penguins shamble in single file to the nesting grounds inland. Each year the same pair meet and mate.”
Jane was surprised. “Do you mean that in this sea of penguins one male and one female always recognize each other?”
Pengui nodded with a smile.
“Wow! That’s unbelievable!” exclaimed Jane.
“The female lays one egg on the ice. Then she travels miles away to feed at sea while the male stays to care for the egg,” Pengui explained.

“He keeps the egg warm by covering it with his loose belly skin. With the egg completely hidden, the male hardly moves and does not eat while the female is away. In eight weeks the egg hatches and the mother returns to look after the baby. The hungry father, who is now half his normal weight, goes off to feed. The parents take turns in hunting for food. They feed the chick by bringing up partly digested fish from their crops. In the summer, they all go back to the sea,”
Pengui explained.

“That is really interesting!” said Jane with a smile.
“Let me tell you another odd detail,” Pengui said. “If something happens to their chicks, penguins try to adopt any other chick that’s walking around. Sometimes, they even go as far as to take a piece of ice and pretend it’s their baby.”
Jane was very moved by what she had just heard. “They miss their baby so much that they make-believe a piece of ice is their chick!” she said quietly.

“Oh yes,” said Pengui, “and I believe your parents will miss you as much if you don’t hurry back home now.”
Jane realized that time had passed very quickly because she was having so much fun. She thanked Pengui for everything he had taught her and waved him goodbye. She stroked a few penguins on her way and disappeared through the door of imagination which would lead her back home.